Business Writing, Media Training, Presentation (not Powerpoint) – All Rely on Communication Skills

Editing as Quality Control (Or How to Avoid Looking Like an Idiot)

“Everyone needs an editor.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Papa Hemingway was honest enough to acknowledge that he wouldn’t have emerged as one of the 20th century’s most distinctive and popular prose stylists without help. He had Maxwell Perkins. You have colleagues and bosses and even subordinates who can help you exert quality control and sharpen your business writing skills. More importantly, you also have yourself.

Remember: Just because you’ve typed the last word doesn’t mean you’re finished. Assume you’ve misspelled at least several words. Assume you’ve dropped words as your fingers flew over the keyboard. Assume you’ve fallen into the “sentence fragment” and “comma splice” habits. DON’T assume that spell-check is enough.

Here are some fine examples from notes written to school by parents in Charleston, W.Va.:

“Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.”

“My son is under a doctor’s care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him.”

“Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father’s fault.”

“Sally won’t be in school a week from Friday. We have to attend her funeral.”

See how spell-check can let you down? Keep this in mind: That’s YOU who signed the note or wrote the email or report. That’s YOUR name on the poorly edited — or unedited — piece of writing. And that’s a terrible impression of you and your business or agency or nonprofit.

Building a Bridge to the Press

If you’ve ever watched one of those Sunday morning shows where the late, lamented Tim Russert and his like question seasoned politicians and top Administration appointees and glib foreign leaders, you’re familiar with the thrust and parry of the sparring. Having been a reporter in Washington (national security correspondent for Business Week magazine), I can tell you that the “non-answer answer” is about as frustrating as it gets — particularly when we know that the public already finds the press obnoxious and pushy. But it’s an occupational hazard and we have to live with it.

What those guests are doing is “bridging” from the import of the potentially embarrassing question to the “spin” that they want to leave in viewers’ minds. Handled shrewdly, bridging often gets them through the half-hour untouched and perhaps even looking sharp and self-confident.

They come in with a message. If they don’t like the questions, they can deploy such bridging phrases as:

–”What’s important to remember, however…”

–”That’s a good point, but I think you’d be interested in knowing…”

–”Let me put that in perspective.”

–”What that means is…”

–”Yes, but that’s not a fair comparison. We do things differently because…”

Put Power Point In Its Place

Two things happen during a Power Point show — the lights go down and the speaker loses eye contact with the audience. Neither one helps you get your message across, particularly if you’re constantly looking over your shoulder at the screen and referring your listeners to one dense slide (too many words in too small a space, or yet another boring chart) after another.

I recently spent three days running a writing skills seminar for seven Navy SEALs who, between overseas assignments, were doing staff work at the Naval Special Weapons Development Group in Virginia Beach, Va. To a man, they slammed Power Point for expecting too much of the audience. “You see a Power Point, and you’re expected to be proficient,” one SEAL said of the classroom training they often have to sit through. “But it’s not enough.”

So we worked on presentation skills training without Power Point. Each one practiced traditional communication skills, looking from listener to listener as the rest of us played the roles of the generals and admirals and ambassadors and foreign dignitaries who SEALs brief around the world. They went to the whiteboard to highlight key points with a magic marker, maintaining that vital audience contact throughout. They learned to be concise and leave enough room for the questions that anyone proficient in presentation skills is sure to inspire. In other words, they communicated.

How to Get Just the Right Wedding Present

Having recently got married, there came a time during preparations when we were asked for a list of required wedding gifts. Now, I know this is the done thing these days but to be honest, I wasn’t totally comfortable with the process. It didn’t feel right to be window shopping and putting together a list of items that we wanted other people to buy for us. There was also the dilemmas of cost. Should we ask for cheap stuff to not look greedy or should we ask for the pricier stuff to get something really nice or could we find middle of the road items?

As uncomfortable as the thought was, creating a list for wedding gifts turned out to be a relatively easy and quite pleasurable experience. Instead of trawling all around different shops, we decided to do a list online and found many of our favourite places provided a wedding gift list service. This allows you to window shop your way through the website adding items as you go at the click of a button. You are then given a list reference number which you can pass to your intended guests and they can pick and choose what they want to buy.

When each shopper has purchased something from the list, the list is then automatically adjusted to show you who has bought what item – a great facility when it comes to writing thank you cards! Many online shops will also deliver the presents, wrapped, to the married couples address at a later, pre-arranged date. Now this isn’t just good for the couple getting married in that they get the wedding gifts they like as opposed to four toasters and a nylon eiderdown, it also makes like a great deal easier for the guests.

Nobody wants to turn up to a wedding empty handed and gifts are the norm. However, in this day and age when couples are getting married later in life, often co-habiting first, and a bottom drawer is unheard of, most people will have all the things they need to begin married life.

So, coming up with a good idea for a wedding present is difficult. You don’t want to look like a cheap skate and you don’t want to break the bank. You want to give something thoughtful and useful that won’t sit and gather dust for years on end in the loft. The dilemmas of the right wedding present are settled by the use of a wedding list.

For the couple making the list, we found it relatively easy to find a range of gifts that we liked that covered a whole range of price groups. This meant that groups of people were able to club together to purchase a larger or more expensive gift and single people were also able to find something appropriate within the right price range.

The whole business of making a list for wedding gifts turned out to be a good one. We got some wonderful gifts that were just what we wanted and the guests were able to purchase just the right thing in the right price range. This saved all the trawling round the shops and guessing at what we might like!

One of my favourite aspects of the experience (apart from opening all the presents!), was that we were able to complete the whole process on line from the comfort of our sofa. On line wedding gift lists are a great service. They simplify the whole process and make it easy for the couple as well as the guests.

All about seafood allergies

The most common symptoms of a seafood allergy are hives, swelling of the lips or tongue, and trouble breathing. In some cases, people can have anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening reaction. This is why any seafood export company will mention the details of their seafood on their packaging, especially if there are any mixed items.

There is no cure for seafood allergies, but there are ways to manage them. You may need to avoid all types of seafood altogether. Or if you are able to eat certain kinds of seafood only, you will need to make sure it is cooked properly so that any traces of allergens are eliminated. If you are travelling and aren’t sure if a dish contains seafood, ask the waiter before ordering, and it is best to always carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you in case of an emergency.

The best way to prevent a seafood allergy is, sadly, to avoid seafood altogether. If you have a seafood allergy, be sure to carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you in case of a severe reaction. You should also wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that says you have a seafood allergy.

If you think you might have a seafood allergy, see your doctor for testing. They can do a skin prick test or a blood test to determine if you are allergic to seafood. If you are allergic to seafood, your doctor will work with you to create an emergency action plan in case of a severe reaction. With careful avoidance and proper treatment, people with seafood allergies can lead happy and healthy lives.