The starting point for all communication is becoming aware of the intended audience and approaching
them on an appropriate level. So many times, people get themselves into difficult situations because t
hey did not consider the audience’s reaction to the message. Anyone could make a list of controversie
s that started as the result of an insensitive remark or one that was not well thought out. In addition to
considering what the message says, as a writer (and speaker) you need to consider how the ideas are e
To ensure successful written communication, first think about the people who will read it. By putting
yourself in their shoes, you will gain insight into what they want to know and how they want to be add
ressed. The Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece has an inscription that cautions each person to “kno
w yourself.” Improving communications encourages people to know thy audience.
Salespeople are no strangers to the concept of “put yourself in the buyer’s position.” It means that the
seller (in this case, you as writer) will consider what features and benefits to present to the person on t
he receiving end. Word choice and message length (think: brevity) will show your recipient how muc
h thought and care you put into crafting your message.
Audiences are composed of people, all of whom have different perceptions. These questions will yield
a variety of answers, simply because perceptions differ:
What is a lot of money?
What is tall?
What is hot?
It’s a fun exercise to ask these questions in a diverse group. Notice how responses differ, based on peo
ple’s life experiences, income levels, educational backgrounds — anyone could increase this list. In fa
ct, try asking a group to define the word “hit.” You’ll get answers that range from “a Top 40 single” t
o “another card at the blackjack table” and many others. The point is that by showing the audience tha
t you thought about these factors before approaching them, you’re demonstrating that you care about t
hem. What could be a better compliment?
To avoid having messages misperceived, misconstrued or misunderstood, choose language that will b
e understood by most (preferably all) of your recipients. Think of the individuals who comprise your a
udience before you communicate with them. Ask yourself:
Who is the audience?
Why am I writing/presenting? What do I want my audience to know or do?
What do they already know? What is their level of understanding?
What is their likely attitude about the topic?
How can I honor my audience’s needs and perspectives?
What does my audience want to achieve?
What medium will support the message the best — e-mail, letter, memo, report, proposal, etc.?
What format or layout will appeal to the audience and support the message?
Then, as the final step before beginning to write, organize your ideas. It’s a true sign of respect for yo
ur audience. Show that you are concerned for their time and attention. Plan to present the information
that will make the most sense to them. Your organizational pattern may take any form (chronological,
inside to outside, top to bottom, etc.). However you deliver the information, just make sure that someo
ne new to your subject area will “get it” without having to strain the brain to do so. With all this in pla
ce, you’re ready to put fingers to keyboard, or (how dated to say…) pen to paper. Approach the task w
ith a positive attitude, a clear purpose and straightforward organization, and you’ll be on the path to ac
hieving your goal.
You can't persuade your listeners if you don't know much about them. Knowing your listeners helps y
ou to shape your message in a way that's most likely to gain their acceptance. That's all the more impo
rtant when your goal is to persuade, and not simply to inform, your audience.
Persuasive speaking aims to convince people to take some form of action. To achieve that goal, you m
ust get your listeners to change their attitudes and beliefs. Or you must reinforce the attitudes and beli
efs they already hold.
That means you must have a thorough knowledge of your audience before you prepare your presentati
on. (For more information on audience analysis, see our article, You Talkin' To Me? )
What you should know.
Any number of factors can affect how your listeners will react. These can include their experience, ed
ucation, job or professional background, age, gender, ethnic background, cultural differences, and mor
Do your listeners share common interests? What's their relationship to one another? What recent expe
riences, if any, have they had that could affect their readiness to accept your argument?
What will your listeners expect from you? Do they have high expectations you may not be able to fulf
ill? Are their expectations realistic? Are you prepared in any case to address those expectations?
These are just some of the questions you should be thinking of as you prepare. Ask as many questions
as you think are relevant.
What do they already know?
You'll need to address your listeners at the level of their existing knowledge. So it's important to have
a clear picture of what they already know. From that, you can build your presentation, adding informa
tion your listeners don't already have.
If, for example, your audience already has expertise in a given area, don't waste their time with unnec
essary background. Start instead from what they already know. What additional information will they
need to better understand and accept your message?
By the same token, if your listeners know little about your topic, you'll need to take that into account t
oo, and fill in the gaps in their knowledge.
Think in terms of how much information your audience needs, not how much information you can pro
vide. In some cases, you may want to provide additional information in a handout after your presentati
"You'll need to address your listeners at the level of their existing knowledge."
Do they care?
Consider how much interest your listeners have in your topic. Is your message a high or a low priority
for them? How much do they care?
If they have a high level of interest, you may be able to cut to the chase quickly, going directly to your
key messages. If their level is low, you may have to build interest before getting to your main messag
es. You may, for example, need to open with an especially strong grabber-a hook that will get everyon
e's attention from the start.
Acknowledge audience attitudes and concerns.
You'll have a much better chance to persuade your listeners when you have some information about w
hat they already think about your topic and even what they think about you.
What attitudes, biases, interests, or concerns might they have that could affect how they receive your
message? Do they have strong opinions or feelings about your topic, or about you? Do they have deep
ly held beliefs you will need to address? To what extent are their egos and values likely to be a factor?
Is your audience likely to be friendly or hostile toward your point of view?
If they hold positive views about your topic and your messages, you'll be focusing chiefly on reinforci
ng those views and reciting the benefits your listeners will receive.
If they hold negative views, you'll need a different strategy. You'll have to anticipate their objections a
nd prepare your responses. You may have to limit what you ask of your audience. You might start wit
h points to get agreement from your audience, before moving to the more controversial parts of your p
resentation. You may even want to begin by listing opposing arguments, and then explain your own p
Determining what can trigger strong emotions in your listeners-whether positive or negative-is an esse
ntial step. You may decide in the end that you can't completely satisfy everyone's concerns. But at lea
st you can present your position strategically, while taking those concerns into account and through th
at, showing your own awareness and sensitivity.
Don't be shy about asking.
It's a sign that you care about your listeners and about addressing their interests and concerns. Present
ers are often surprised, once they start asking, to discover how much they can learn about an audience
ahead of time.
Information can come from any number of sources-including those conducting or sponsoring the meet
ing, others who have spoken to the same audience, and especially, from questioning some of those wh
o will be attending your meeting. Of course, if your listeners are people you interact with regularly, th
is part of your job will be a lot easier.
As you prepare for your next presentation, make sure you base your plans on a detailed understanding
of your audience. Focus on what matters most to them and what will help you lead them to your goal.
To get underway and to make sure you stay on track, work with a communication expert.
How You Can Benefit from a Business Communication Course
11 Effective business communication starts with finding your voice and the right tone for a specific au
Business memos, letters and reports can benefit from an authoritative, expert style. When you can writ
e and communicate well within your industry and with your clients, your professional peers will take
notice, and you may begin to rise through the ranks.
Speak Effectively, Accomplish More
Effective communications can increase workplace productivity. Time is money when it comes to expl
aining details to others, and your communication skills can pay off when you speak clearly and comm
unicate well with peers either in your office or with a global team.
One call or video chat to deliver instructions, sometimes across language barriers, can save everyone t
ime later and avoid follow-up calls or misunderstood communications that could jeopardize work or d
Improve Your Writing, Boost Your Opportunities
A command of grammar and basic language skills in writing can produce crisp, concise written comm
Your coworkers may appreciate memos that offer clear explanation or instructions, and your customer
s can benefit from targeted messages designed to increase sales. Everyone can benefit from a well-wri
As you develop your writing talent, your supervisors may see your skill as something that can help m
otivate, sell a product or inspire others in the office, creating more career opportunities for you.
Other Aspects of Business Communication
To gain a level of confidence in oral and written communications, courses focusing on these skills can
be beneficial. If you are shy or withdrawn and feel uncomfortable communicating to a large audience
, taking a course can help in the following ways:
Gain basic writing skills: With these courses, you can improve your writing and develop your skills in
writing informational, persuasive communications. The more you practice, the faster and easier this t
ask may become.
Find your voice: You can learn the distinctions of a writing voice for an internal or external audience i
ncluding nuances that resonate whether you are speaking to coworkers or clients.
Become more comfortable engaging others: Having a relaxed attitude is valuable when you are meeti
ng with peers at conferences or taking a lead role in meetings. Your abilities and poise under pressure
can help set the tone for the rest of the room.
Learning more about how to effectively discuss issues with others can be important in areas such as m
ediation. You may draw from all of your communication knowledge that you acquire in a basic course
to inspire, manage conflicts in an office setting and keep everyone on task.
Business Communication Training Can Help You Update Your Job Skills
Business communication is more than just speaking and writing. Adopting new communication skills
can put you on the leading edge of industry public relations and could help you build a new career wit
h advanced skill sets.
Other elements that a basic course could introduce you to may include:
Desktop publishing and managing websites and blogs: Not only can you learn more about Web techno
logy but also learn different ways to create effective content for a company website or blog.
Video conferencing using Google Hangouts, Skype or FaceTime: Verbal skills can shine in these aren
as once you learn the fundamentals of presentation and delivering a clear message.
Social media cultivation and management: This growing field is becoming more important for busines
ses in terms of marketing, promotion and reputation management.
Business leaders are those who can rise to the challenge and present a charismatic version of themselv
es to the public through their verbal skills and ability to write effectively.
Your journey on this path could begin with what you learn initially in a basic business communication
course. Your first lessons could be the foundation for future growth in your career.
Business communication can take many forms, written and verbal. It can be between managers and e
mployees within a company, or between a company and its customers, partners or suppliers. The purp
ose of business communication also varies, but it should always benefit your business. When carried o
ut effectively, business communication can build your company's reputation, resolve and prevent conf
licts, and contribute to strong relationships between your company, its customers and the business co
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You're already sitting on goldmines of employee knowledge. What next?
Build Customer Relationships
Few businesses would grow or even survive without the benefits gained through marketing communic
ations. You can take advantage of the wide variety of media available to let the public know about yo
ur products or services.
Use business communications to establish your company as an authority or thought leader in your ind
ustry. Offer a white paper or online articles that discuss common problems business owners face and p
resent your company's solution. A weekly or monthly newsletter to your prospects or established cust
omers will help build trust by providing helpful tips and information. Occasionally sending out a direc
t mail or email survey will help you get to know your customers and better fill their needs.
Freely sharing your expertise and gathering feedback from your customers will help you build a stron
g relationship with your customer base, and establish your company as a trusted expert in your industr
Good communication within an organization can help foster cooperation between members of manage
ment and the employees they oversee. When giving instructions, planning a project or explaining a ch
ange in policy, it's important to convey the reasons behind a request or decision. Such consideration h
elps to promote understanding and build trust between you and your employees.
Even in a small business, the success of any project depends on the ability of team members to work t
ogether, and good communication is the key to successful collaboration. Effective communication wit
hin a company involves listening and responding to your employees' ideas and needs. Your willingnes
s to do so demonstrates a respect for the individuals who contribute daily to the growth of your busine
Related Reading: The Importance of Telephone Communication in Business
Communication is also important when dealing with suppliers, outsourced providers and other outside
business contacts. You can avert many problems by clearly outlining your needs and expectations wh
en you enter a relationship with a provider. In addition to negotiating a detailed service agreement, ma
intaining phone or email communication throughout your business relationship will make it easier to i
mplement changes or deal with issues.
Keeping in touch with your network of business connections will also benefit your company. Send a c
ard to congratulate a colleague who has reached a milestone in his own business, and remember to ma
il season's greetings and thank-you cards when appropriate.
Advantages Of Effective Communication
The truth is that while you already know how to communicate, learning a few simple principles that c
an be applied immediately will make you an effective communicator and give you a huge advantage i
n today’s ultra competitive business world.
Here are some advantages of effective communication:
Conflict is reduced. Most conflict is the result of misunderstood communication. When you become a
n effective communicator, you can resolve conflict and create harmony by bridging the communicatio
n gaps that create conflict. You can even use your skills to mediate conflict between other people.
Here's how to resolve conflict.
Information about our on-demand conflict resolution training.
Vist my conflict resolution blog.
Get more of what you want out of life. When you learn to communicate effectively in ways that peopl
e instinctively understand, they will be delighted to help you and provide you with the resources that y
ou need to achieve your goals and dreams.
Here's how to be more persuasive
Here's how to have more confidence
Have stronger relationships. Effective communication builds strong business and personal relationship
s because you learn to understand exactly what people want and how to give it to them. Learn to com
municate your thoughts and emotions in ways that they instinctively understand at an unconscious lev
Non verbal communication is explained here.
Help people to adopt your ideas. Effective communication is not about "you" and getting what you wa
nt... it is about discovering what other people want and need and then adapting your presentation to m
atch their needs. As you practice and develop your skills, you will find that people gladly adopt your i
deas because you have subtly helped them to discover them for themselves rather than telling them ab
More details about persuasion.
People will like you better. Using effective communication will help you to understand other people b
etter and when you understand them, you will relate to them better. When you relate better, people wil
l like you.
The importance of effective communication was acknowledged as early as the days of Pericles, a fam
ous orator in the times of ancient Greece, who noted, "The thinking human being not able to express h
imself stands at the same level as those who cannot think". The ability to communicate well can never
be overemphasised because no matter what organisation you work for, be it a large corporation like I
BM, Merrill-Lynch, Siemens, McDonald's, or Mobil, or a small individually-owned foodstall or a gro
cery store, or a non-profit organisation such as a hospital or a library, the ability to communicate effec
tively is very important.
Peter Drucker, the management guru, had this to say about business communication courses in genera
l, "... they (business communication courses) teach the one thing that is perhaps the most valuable for
the future employee to know ... This one basic skill is the ability to organise and express ideas in writi
ng and in speaking ... The letter, the report, or memorandum, the 'ten-minute' presentation' to a commi
ttee are basic tools of an employee." In a knowledge-based economy, the ability to communicate infor
mation in clear and concise terms is becoming more important and more critical to your career. The E
S2002 Business Communication course is intended to meet the demand for graduates who are trained
to communicate effectively in business settings.
By the end of the course, you should be able to:
understand the fundamental principles of effective business communication;
apply the critical and creative thinking abilities necessary for effective communication in today's busi
organise and express ideas in writing and speaking to produce messages suitably tailored for the topic,
objective, audience, communication medium and context; and
demonstrate clarity, precision, conciseness and coherence in your use of language.
The course will cover a number of key business communication topics, each of which aims to develop
specific skills and competencies as set out below:
The communication process, problems and principles. To gain a general understanding of communica
tion as a process.
Meeting/group discussion skills. To become more effective meeting participants and to ensure more p
Letter writing skills. To produce successful letters, memos or emails in any given situation, paying att
ention to the writer's objectives, the reader's needs, the reader-writer relationship and the context.
Report writing skills. To understand the fundamentals of the report writing process and develop the cr
itical skills necessary to produce convincing written reports characterised by a sound and an interestin
g discussion of data, logical conclusions and feasible recommendations.
Intercultural communication skills. To become aware of important factors at play when communicatin
g across cultures for improved communication with audiences of diverse backgrounds in the global bu
Interpersonal skills. To develop greater awareness and sensitivity to some important considerations in
interpersonal communication and learn techniques to ensure smoother interpersonal relations.
Oral presentation skills. To become more effective confident speakers and deliver persuasive presenta
27 Ways the Business Communication Course Can Help Your Students
Oct 1, 2015 114
As you get rolling with a new term, you’ll probably be emphasizing the long-term value of the busine
ss communication course to your students. Here’s our list of 27 ways communication skills can help st
udents in their personal and professional lives.
1. Succeeding in other college courses. From writing research papers to making presentations, the skil
ls developed in the business communication course can help with virtually every other course students
2. Landing the best available job. The job-search process is essentially an interconnected set of busine
ss communication projects using a variety of media and interpersonal communication skills. It’s a gre
at opportunity for students to put their finely tuned skills to work.
3. Positioning oneself for promotional opportunities. The managers who make promotional decisions l
ike to keep an eye on up-and-coming talent, and communication skills play a critical role in how those
employees perform and how they are perceived by colleagues, customers, and influential executives.
4. Becoming a more-effective online and offline networker. Networking is a vital skill for everyone fr
om entrepreneurs to top-level corporate managers, and business communication equips people with th
e audience insights and communication skills they need to become valued and successful network part
5. Interacting with people up and down the corporate hierarchy. College-aged students aren’t always c
omfortable communicating with older, more-experienced colleagues, managers, and executives. Learn
ing how to analyze an audience’s needs and expectations can help anyone handle these challenges wit
h grace and confidence.
6. Solving problems. Every professional runs into problems in the workplace, and some jobs are all ab
out problem solving. Communication is central to many business problems and challenges, whether it’
s part of the problem or part of the solution.
7. Selling ideas, proposals, and products. The business world is littered with great ideas and well-desi
gned products that never caught on because the people behind them didn’t know how to promote them
selves or their marvelous creations. Even professionals who never come close to working in marketin
g or sales need to know how to persuade—a valuable skill students will learn in this course.
8. Understanding audiences. Whether it’s the other person in a one-on-one conversation or a global au
dience on digital media, knowing how to assess someone else’s information needs and emotional state
improves every form of communication.
9. Developing digital information fluency. Finding, evaluating, and using digital information in an age
of data overload is a make-or-break skill in many careers.
10. Developing visual literacy. From infographics to online video, visual media have become a funda
mental part of business communication, not to mention the charts, graphs, diagrams, and other tools th
at have been in use for decades. A well-rounded business communication course can help students un
derstand the power of visual communication, interpret business visuals, and make intelligent design c
hoices in their own documents and presentations.
11. Developing a compelling personal brand. Even people turned off by the idea of branding themselv
es can benefit from knowing the behaviors and skills that combine to create the “social being” they pr
esent to the rest of the world.
12. Detecting and avoiding ethical lapses. Ethical dilemmas and ethical lapses should be core topics in
business communication, of course. In addition to general guidelines for ensuring ethical communicat
ion, our texts offer such examples as overselling, obscuring negative information, and manipulating c
harts and graphs.
13. Avoid and resolving disputes. Understanding how communication works—or fails to work—helps
people minimize confusion, avoid inadvertent insults, and keep tensions from escalating.
14. Diagnosing communication breakdowns. Sometimes even with good intentions and careful effort,
communication efforts can fail. Professionals who understand a basic model of the communication pr
ocess can use it to diagnose breakdowns and take corrective active.
15. Using communication technology professionally. It’s a rare student who isn’t equipped with some
advanced communication and computing technologies these days, particularly one or more mobile de
vices, but using those tools in a professional context takes the sort of awareness and practice they’ll ge
t in the business communication course.
16. Enhancing personal and social relationships. The value of communication skills certainly isn’t lim
ited to the workplace. Knowing how to listen actively, speak persuasively, write carefully, and read cr
itically can help just about any relationship.
17. Crafting life’s toughest messages with sensitivity. Rejection letters, condolences, and other messa
ges on unwelcome issues are among a communicator’s toughest challenges. The principles taught in b
usiness communication can help writers address these situations with understanding and tact.
18. Improving communication confidence. By taking the mystery out of effective communication, this
course helps students develop confidence in their ability to tackle any communication challenge.
19. Evaluating, editing, and revising the work of other writers. Professionals are often asked to review
the writing of other people, and knowing how to help—without throwing a wrench into the works—r
equires a specific set of skills that students can learn in this course.
20. Leading and participating in more-effective meetings. The principles of interpersonal communicat
ion, group dynamics, and conflict resolution taught in business communication can go a long way tow
ard making meetings more effective.
21. Listening actively for information, intent, and nuance. Among the many skills that make up comm
unication competence, few outrank listening. The business communication course can teach the vital s
kill of active listening and the specific modes of critical, content, and empathic listening.
22. Communicating in a crisis. With the growth of social and mobile media, companies are under mor
e pressure than ever to communicate quickly, clearly, and sensitively in the aftermath of accidents, tra
gedies, and other calamities. Anticipating likely events and responding with audience-focused messag
es are important managerial skills.
23. Recognizing the powers and pitfalls of nonverbal communication. All communication efforts are i
nfluenced by the presence or absence of nonverbal signals, and this course can help students recogniz
e the signals they receive and manage the signals they send.
24. Communicating efficiently. Knowing how to craft messages and documents at a rapid clip is an es
sential survival skill for many professionals. By practicing with a proven method such as the three-ste
p writing process, students can learn how to write not only effectively but efficiently, too.
25. Ensuring positive team outcomes. Team dynamics are a complicated subject, but one simple truth
is that dysfunctional teams tend to communicate poorly while highly effective teams communicate we
ll. The business communication course gives students the opportunity to grow their teamwork skills in
a safe, supportive environment.
26. Enriching intercultural interactions. Reaching across international boundaries is a necessary skill f
or many professionals, and every business needs to connect with diverse groups of customers and emp
loyees. The business communication course teaches students how to communicate with people from o
ther backgrounds and cultures—a necessary business skill
and a lifelong source of pleasure.
27. Improving etiquette in all forms of contemporary media. For all their benefits, today’s tech tools c
reate a host of potential etiquette problems. Students can use the course to identify and avoid the misst
eps that can hurt careers.
Several years ago , Brittany Brown completed a major undertaking . As a young, ambitious public - af
fairs professional , she took it upon herself in 2008 to learn how to develop a strategic communication
s plan for her employer , the Norfolk , Va . , district of the U . S . Army Corps of Engineers .
“It was all on - the - job training , ” says Brown , now 29 . “ I was learning as I was going . ”
Though happy with the results , Brown knew she needed further instruction to take her business writin
g skills to the next level. So she enrolled in a strategic communications class in 2010 at Georgetown U
niversity ’s Center for Continuing and Professional Education (202 - 687 - 7000 ) .
“That course really solidified some of the things I had learned and helped to strengthen my skills ,” sh
e says . “ And it impacted my career in a positive manner for sure. ”
She now works on the marketing, branding and communications team at NPR , and she ’ s back at Ge
orgetown teaching writing for social media .
In today ’ s era of hashtag - heavy tweets, abbreviation- filled texts and quickly dashed -off emails, yo
u might not think it matters if your written communications have lots of typos and no punctuation . Bu
t in the business world, good writing still counts .
The way you come across on paper or on the computer screen can impact everything from landing a j
ob to securing a promotion .
“We all make assumptions ,” says Anna Mauldin , product manager in the leadership and developmen
t division at Management Concepts ( 888 - 545 - 8577 ), which offers courses on business writing , gr
ammar and other topics at its downtown D .C . and Tysons Corner locations . “Poor writing could lead
people to believe that you don ’t have attention to detail or to question your competence or ability to
do a job.”
It can also hold you back in your career. “ You can make it to a certain level without having great com
munication skills , ” says David Lipscomb , interim director of Georgetown ’s Writing Center and assi
stant professor of teaching at Georgetown , who taught the course Brown took. “ But you certainly ca
nnot make it to top management without being a good communicator. ”
If you get tripped up by things like using the passive voice or organizing your ideas , there are lots of
writing courses out there that can help . They range from daylong sessions to longer certificate progra
ms offered via open enrollment . You can also find custom classes for specific workplaces . ( See side
bar for some examples .) In them , students might cover how to use a comma, how to structure a repor
t or how to write concisely.
Workplace newbies aren ’t the only ones who could stand to improve their sentence structure .
“Most people think writing classes are just for young people ,” says Karen Hormuth, executive directo
r of training at Thecapitol . net (202 - 678 - 1600 ) , which offers writing courses aimed at both govern
ment and general business professionals . “ But people can get sloppy [ over time] , so any age could
benefit from a writing class. ”
And with so many different styles of communication needed in the workplace across so many differen
t platforms , employees of any generation could find themselves confused about the right way to write
a Facebook post versus a press release .
“There are so many levels of formality today , and that requires an ability to shift tone and voice, ” sa
ys Lipscomb .
Our connected culture also means that more employees than ever before are doing some kind of intern
al or external communicating. “There are very few jobs in our information -age economy that do not r
equire some element of communication ,” says Lipscomb . “Everybody ’s got to learn it. ”
The good news is that you don ’t have to be a natural . “ Writing is a skill that takes practice , ” says B
rown . “ But it’s one of those things that gets better the more you do it.”
Improve your way with words
Does your professional writing need some help ? Here are some local classes that offer classroom tim
e to polish your business communication skills . Oh , by the way , they only take a day or two .
Where: Management Concepts
Description : This course offers information on common grammar mistakes and tips on how to avoid
and fix them .
Length of class: 2 days , at either the Tysons Corner or D .C . locations
Certificate or degree option: This is an elective for several Management Concept certificate programs
in an array of tracks . Courses also count for credit in two other continuing education programs.
Cost: $ 769
Where: Management Concepts
Description : Students learn how to plan documents, write copy that’ s relevant to their audience and b
rush up on such things as word choice.
Length of class: 2 days , at either the Tysons Corner or D .C . locations
Certificate or degree option: This is a core course in Management Concept ’ s Professional Skills certi
ficate program and an elective for several of its other programs .
Cost: $ 769
Writing for Government and Business : Critical Thinking and Writing
Where: TheCapitol. Net
Description : Topics covered in this class include the use of “ plain English ,” a directive for governm
ent workers following the Plain Writing Act of 2010 .
Length of class: 1 day , at a location in the D .C . area
Certificate or degree option: No , but the class does count for 0 .6 Continuing Education Unit from Ge
orge Mason .
Cost: $ 295
Strategic Communications Planning
Where: Georgetown University ’s Center for Continuing & Professional Education
Description : Students learn how to develop a strategic communications plan for their organization an
d ensure that their message is consistent across all platforms .
Length of class: 1 day , at Georgetown
Certificate or degree option: This class counts toward Georgetown ’ s certificate in Social Media Man
Cost: $ 595
Effective communication is an essential part of running a successful business . Communication – both
internal and external – enables smooth operations, increases effectiveness and efficiency, and helps to
Unfortunately, the communication connection is where things have a tendency to go wrong. Whether i
t’s verbal misunderstandings, lost emails, confusing texts or poorly-worded email messages, breakdo
wns in communications can be costly.
With this in mind, here are 17 easy ways you can improve your business communication skills to keep
things sailing smoothly:
Treat Email Like Real Mail – It’s okay to skimp on the text when you’re sending a grocery list to your
spouse or an invite to an old college friend, but when dealing with business associates, partners and cl
ients, it’s always better to err on the side of formality. Treat your email communications as if they wer
e real letters – not just digital missives.
Edit for Clarity – It’s tempting to just jot down a note and send it without a second thought, but you sh
ould always go back and edit for clarity. What you think sounds perfect in your head could be confusi
ng to whoever receives your memo.
Archive Communications – Create folders in which to save old emails that you may need again in the
future. Having a “lost” email conveniently backed up in an archive can save you a ton of time when th
at email suddenly becomes relevant again.
Check your Facts – You don’t ever want to have the wrong information, as this makes you look like y
ou haven’t done your homework! For this reason, it’s important to always check your facts before you
hit that “Send” button.
Stay Away from Emoticons, Slang and Colloquialisms – Business communications should be direct a
nd to the point. They should also be written so that a person on the other side of the country could inst
antly understand what you’re talking about. If you have even the slightest suspicion that something yo
u’ve written could be lost in translation, skip it.
Always Use the Subject Line – The subject line is not only your recipient’s first introduction to the co
ntent of your message, it’s also one key to keeping your message out of the spam box. Always fill out
this crucial field – even if it’s with something as simple as “Hello.”
Avoid the Spam Box – If your messages aren’t getting through to your intended recipient, it could be t
hat they’re being marked as spam. To prevent this, be sure that the person on the other end of the line
is looking for your email and has your email address and domain in their list of “safe” senders.
Meet in Person – Sometimes, an email or a text just isn’t enough. Putting a face to a name and a palm
to a palm is still the best way to communicate complex ideas and make a good impression, so don’t sh
y away from person-to-person meetings.
Listen Attentively – Good communication begins with an understanding of what the other party is talk
ing about. Always listen and give your undivided attention, instead of trying to interject too quickly w
ith your own thoughts.
Focus Your Speech – Think before you open your mouth. When your speech patterns are cluttered wit
h “umms” and “ahhs,” you defeat the purpose of meeting face-to-face.
Stay on Target – Don’t get distracted by topics that are irrelevant to why you chose to meet in the first
place. It’s easy for your train of thought to derail, but business communication is different than interp
ersonal communication. There’s always a point you’re trying to get across, so stick to it!
Avoid Making Communications too Personal – Keeping professional boundaries sacred is important i
n business communication. It’s good to become friendly with the people with whom you’re working,
but you don’t necessarily have to become friends. Be polite and engaging, but avoid too much persona
Thank People for Their Input – People always want to feel that their opinions are important – even if
you don’t agree with them. It’s your job to keep the conversation on track. If the person you’re talking
with expresses a contrary opinion or offers an alternative you feel won’t be beneficial, thank them an
d then explain why you’re not going to use what they’ve suggested.
Tell ‘em, Tell ‘em, Tell ‘em Again – Tell people what you’re going to say, say it and tell them what y
ou’ve told them. This age old adage about good communication is based on human psychology. The b
rain is set up to remember things in a specific order. Items with primacy (the first in a list) and items
with recency (the newest items) will always be remembered above anything else. So by introducing y
our “big ideas” in the beginning of your talk and at the end, you’re doubling your chances that your re
cipient will remember what you’ve told them.
Ask Questions – It’s not all about engaging your listener’s pride. Questions generate ideas and helpful
tangents in discussions that allow you to bring out aspects of a topic that would have otherwise gone
unnoticed, so make it a habit to pose at least 1-2 probing questions in every business conversation.
Follow Up – Whether in-person or in writing, always follow up a day or two after you’ve discussed an
issue to ensure that the person on the other end of the conversation understood your points and is able
to undertake any further tasks that your communication necessitated.
A Sense of Humor is Good, but Not Essential – Humor is often touted in speech books and communic
ations manuals as an important conversational tool, but it’s not essential. If you’re stressed about bein
g seen as the “funny guy,” keep in mind that clarity of thought and simplicity of presentation are far m
ore important than opening with a joke.
Obviously, these are just a few suggestions on how to improve your business communication skills. If
you have any other ideas that you’d like to share, leave a comment on the subject below!