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Your Five-Minute Communication Workshop 

During college, I always knew the school year was winding down thanks to the gaggle of seniors lined up outside my dorm room door. A dazzling resume was the first step to them landing choice jobs after graduation and rumor had it I could help.

One after another, they’d shuffle in and ask me to improve the drafts they’d printed on linen paper. All of them echoed the same refrain: “I’m horrible at this!”

Truth was, some of them truly were horrible at it, but it took years to dawn on me that communicating well is a vital life skill — one that I should have taught to my collegiate colleagues instead of letting them lounge in my bean bag chair while I worked.

Decades later, I still hear, “I’m horrible at this!” Twice just this morning, in fact. The reality is, being a poor communicator was less of a problem in 2001 than it is today. On top of resumes, we build social media profiles and compose posts, send dozens of emails, text at all hours, and coordinate our professional lives through Slack. Competent communication has morphed from nice-but-not-necessary into an expected part of daily life.

So, in the spirit of graduation season and better communication, here’s what I should have told those college seniors all those years ago:

Start with the Musts

Before you begin fleshing out full sentences or dream up a catchy line, type the details you can’t afford to leave out. A date, a time, the location, a project description, an attachment — this is the required information you’ll look silly for forgetting, so get it down first. Basic and simple will do here.

Get to the Point

Story arcs that build toward a climax and descend into a happy resolution work well in books and on the big screen; however, professionals can simply state their point and follow it with vital details as needed. Giving your readers what they’re skimming for as quickly as possible increases your communication’s effectiveness.

Don’t Over-Explain

Your client doesn’t need to know every type of card stock on the market or the minutiae of your rigorous seven-point testing process; they just need to know about the two most relevant to their project. Don’t make your reader wade through an abundance of details to find the most relevant information. You’ll do it for them when you only include what’s most pertinent.

Reread

We know it’s tempting to skip a reread; however, a second pass is always worth it. While scouring for obvious errors, also be attuned to missing words. In the digital age, we’re master skim readers to the point that our minds automatically fill in blanks.

Challenge Yourself

Hunt for phrases or sentences that clutter up your writing and cut them. “Here are the proofs you requested” is cleaner than “Per our discussion on Thursday afternoon, I’m sending along the proofs you asked me to update for you.” Cutting back can become a fun and addicting game. (Yes, really.) For an even better challenge, add contrast to your writing.

Tread Lightly on Humor

Levity is always welcome. However, without eye contact and body language to play off of, be cautious about using humor in written communications. That said, do let your personality shine through. Just make sure it’s appropriate to your audience.

Communicating well is worth the effort. You’ll rarely post or email a masterpiece, but you can always be clear, concise, and easily understood.

Need help with your communication? Contact the expert team at Matt Jensen Marketing!

5 Tips to Being Master of (Virtual) Ceremonies

Virtual events have been a staple this year. There’s no need to rehash why, but now that we’ve grown comfortable with them, they’re here to stay in some form or another. They can’t replicate the connection of in-person gatherings; however, a virtual event can be an affordable, easy-to-execute bridge between the larger events your organization invests in. Especially when done well. Here are our 5 best tips for making yours a success:

1. Pre-record most, if not all, of your presentation

Since you can’t out-plan a technical glitch, pre-recording is your best bet for limiting how much can go awry. Bonus: there are a lot of ways to present your pre-recorded message so that it seems live. If you must present live, consider using a professional production team to troubleshoot technical issues as they arise.

2. Keep your presentation to 30 minutes or less

We know. That’s not a lot of time. We’ve found that people are often curious enough to tune in, but are quick to tune out. The short timeframe ensures that you stay focused and on message, which is always a good idea anyway.

3. Stick to the schedule

Make sure speakers (pre-recorded or live) are brief and to-the-point. To accomplish this, assign topics and time limits beforehand and consider a dry-run to suss out any potential problems. Limit the amount of giveaways, speakers, and other transitions so that the presentation doesn’t feel rushed and chaotic.

4. Anticipate and extend the experience

Build out your event with a series of social media posts and emails prior to the date and follow-up with a similar series afterward. This gathers anticipation beforehand and keeps the “after glow” going once it ends. It also expands your communication window beyond the 30 minutes of your event. Additional ways to build out your event would be to send a postcard invite or, once the event concludes, create a new Facebook group of attendees to keep the conversation going.

5. Choose your date strategically

If it’s a social or fundraising event, experts agree that Saturday evening is the ideal time to host your event, virtual or otherwise. Attendees will be more relaxed, their kids aren’t likely to have competing extracurricular activities, and people’s moods are better than during the work week. Thursday evening is the second best option. There’s general agreement that Friday evening is the worst time to host an event as people would rather unwind on their own after a full week. For educational or instructional events, consider lunch time on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Get to Know… Sara Patterson

MJM is pleased to welcome our newest member to the team — Sara Patterson.

Throughout her career, Sara has helped corporate businesses, local businesses, and non-profits tell their story through copywriting and communication strategy. She’s awesome, and if you want more information on her career you can find her bio here. But today, we know you want to learn some things about Sara that won’t show up on her LinkedIn account. We sat down and asked her some hard-hitting questions that will help you get to know her better.

What is your dream vacation?

Italy, for sure.

What actor would play you in a movie?

Hmm, I’m not sure. Probably Rebel Wilson or Tina Fey. They are almost as sarcastic as I am.

In high school, you would have been voted, “Most Likely To…”?

Bail you out of jail, for sure. I’ve always been the person you call when you’re in trouble.

What would be your “catch phrase” or famous quote?

“Words are my friends, and I want my friends treated well.”

What is your favorite candle scent?

Probably “bake and eat” scents, I suppose.

What is your favorite candy?

Anything with chocolate caramel or peanut butter.

What is your secret talent?

My secret talent is how fast I can read. Also, I’m fluent in two languages: English and Sarcasm. Does that count as a talent?

Welcome to the team, Sara! We’re happy to have you aboard. For our clients who are lucky enough to have Sara on their team, we know you’ll quickly see her value in caring for your words, brand, and overall project.

How to (Actually!) Deliver an Outstanding Customer Experience

I used to dread calling the doctor’s office. It wasn’t that it led to stepping on the scale (though that also wasn’t always pleasant) or the occasional shot or two.

It was that it led to music. Invariably, I’d be put on hold while the scheduler took another call, and for a few torturous minutes, I’d be accosted with a screechy, tinny distortion of The Four Seasons.

Vivaldi and I were not impressed.

My doctor’s office needed more than just higher quality on-hold music; they needed to examine their customers’ experience. Sure, they’d covered all the expected bases, but with a little insight and attention to detail, that office could have — in keeping with today’s analogy — gone from passable high school band to South Dakota Symphony Orchestra in no time.

What are your customers really buying?

Business leaders all agree that making customers and clients feel taken care of is paramount and worth the investment. But what they sometimes overlook is that customer care extends far beyond an aesthetically pleasing website and timely delivery of goods and services.

That’s not as far-reaching as it sounds, and even better, can usually be done gradually with a few simple changes. Whether you’re designing the experience at a coffee shop or a healthcare center, here are a few strategies to get your customers raving about their time with you:

  1. Experience your customer’s point of view. Start back at a Google search and move to filling out your website’s contact form. Call your business for directions, park in the customer section of your lot and sit in your waiting room or public area. Walk through the entire experience, being mindful of ways to improve. And don’t just do this once; do it on a regular basis.
  2. Take every sense into account. What do customers smell when they visit your location? Is the space too dark or too light? If there’s seating, is it comfortable? Consider the noise level and background music. Are they pleasing or distracting? Look at accessibility. Are counters too high for someone in a powerchair to see over?
  3. Train your staff. Customer care goes beyond being friendly and helpful and doesn’t always come as naturally as we assume. Be intentional about training your staff to show empathy toward customers, clients, or patients. These changes can often be simple to implement. Instead of calling patient names across the waiting room, staff at Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls make a point of walking to patients before greeting them. It gets the interaction off on a personal note and puts patients at ease. Another business realized that handing its clients off from one professional to another, while efficient for them, was disorienting for their clients. They adjusted their workflow so that clients worked with the same representative from the beginning to the end of their experience.

Making your customers feel valued and cared for is crucial to your business. The kind of marketing a loyal ambassador provides is priceless, but with some mindful changes you can tap into its benefits. (And this time Vivaldi *will* be impressed.)

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