Tips and tricks gleaned from UGA’s Foundations of Leadership and Management Program

Business Skills -- Do's and Don'ts for More Professional Speaking and Writing

Tips and tricks gleaned from UGA’s Foundations of Leadership and

Management Program

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t to address. 
  Gather as much background material as necessary. Do you 
need to know more about the writer/the situation/etc? 
  Jot down the ideas you want to convey in your letter. 
  Choose your first sentence carefully. It makes the first 
impressions – good or bad. 
  If you are replying to a letter, include a reference to the date 
of the letter in your starting sentence so the recipient can refer 
to that letter if necessary. 
  You final sentence should express the idea of prime interest to 
you – the call to action or what you want to happen. 
  Stop when you’re done. 
  End with a sign-off ( thanks again, sincerely, etc.). 
Email Best Practices 
  If you want action, list only one name in the To: field. 
Otherwise, recipients don’t know who holds responsibility for 
  If you are sending large attachments, compress the files. 
  Don’t use emoticons or wallpaper. 
  Remember copyright laws when cutting and pasting info from 
the Internet. 
  Typically omit salutations and complementary closings. 
  Vary your closes: 
  Thank you for your time, 
  Looking forward to hearing from you, 
  Include name, company and contact information at the end of 
all your messages. 
  Use upper and lower case. 
  Enter hard returns after every 60 to 68 characters. 
  Avoid bolding, italics, font and color changes. 
  Keep you email short. If your message is long, create it as an 
attachment and send it along with a short cover note. 
  Use white space. Computer screens distort the way we see 
  Break text into brief paragraphs. 
Email Best Practices 
  Restrict each message to one subject. Send separate messages 
rather than several topics in one message. 
  Make the subject heading clear – and compelling. 
  Avoid acronyms. 
  Consider how much background your reader really needs. 
  Responding to an earlier issue raised in an email message? 
  Paraphrase it briefly. 
  Change the old title on the subject line. 
  And – after two rounds of problem solving on email – pick up 
the phone. 
  Use active vs. passive voice. 
  Don’t write anything you would not want anyone other than the 
intended recipient to see. 
  Before writing, think about your frame of mind. If you are angry 
or irritated, walk away. 
  Don’t deliver bad news in an email message. 
  If it’s urgent, pick up the phone. 
  Don’t hide behind email. Any sensitive communication should be 
done in person. 
Email Best Practices 
Don’t Press Send Yet! 
  Let your email get cold. Then reread it. 
  Read it aloud if you can. 
  Read it slowly. 
  Cut out the fluff. 
  Double check grammar and spelling. 
  Now press send. 
Do Not Email If: 
  The topic is legal and requires signatures. 
  This is an invite to a formal event. 
  This is a fund raising letter. 
  You are canceling a meeting scheduled for that day. 
  You are introducing yourself for the first time. 
On the Receiving End? 
  Acknowledge business emails if your response will be delayed, 
i.e., “give me a few days”. 
  Do not pass on messages to others unless you are sure the 
sender will not object. 
Business Speaking Pointers 
Speaking in public, particularly at the lectern, is everyone’s 
number one phobia! 
How do you overcome this fear? 
  Make your oral presentation an extension of yourself. 
  Never try to be someone you’re not. 
  Analyze aspects of your personality that appeal to others. 
  Practice speaking to a professional group as though you’re 
speaking to just one person. 
  Increase volume and energy to suit the size of the room. 
  Keep practicing until the ‘professional you’ and the 
‘personal you’ are the same person. 
  Use verbal and non-verbal approaches that capture attention. 
  Always use body language that approaches the audience. 
  Use hand motions that bring the audience towards you 
rather than away from you. 
Business Speaking Pointers 
  Know your material. 
  It should be obvious that you have prepared for the 
  It should not seem as though you have memorized the 
material or are reading it work-for-word from index card or 
full pages. 
  Assess your audience. 
  Consider all the demographics represented, e.g. age, 
gender, and occupation. 
  Keep in mind what your audience is expecting from you, 
both in content and style. 
  Organize and direct the message appropriately. 
  Determine how you will gain attention, develop your 
points, and conclude the message. 
  Use techniques that befit the nature of the audience and 
are in keeping with your style of speaking. 
“Be sincere; be brief; be seated” 
Presenting Before a Group 
  Strive for a quality of naturalness in your delivery. 
  Think of it as a particularly important conversation. 
  Try to speak as though you were addressing just one 
  As you practice your speech, remember the importance of your 
nonverbal behavior. 
  Audiences are quick to detect discrepancies between what 
you say and how you say it. 
  Audiences do not so much listen to a speaker’s words as 
‘read’ the speaker who delivers them. 
  Avoid standing stiffly behind the podium. 
  As space and time allow, try to get out from behind the 
podium and closer to the audience. 
  Move around at a comfortable, natural pace. 
  Be aware of your posture. Stand erect, but not ramrod 
  Don’t fiddle with objects as you speak. 
  Use regular letter-size paper rather than note cards, so you 
don’t distract attention through constant paper shuffling. 
  Put your pen or pencil down. Don’t jab the air with it or use 
it as a crutch. 
Presenting Before a Group 
  Practice your speech using a fully developed speaking outline. 
  Focus on your speech ideas rather than yourself. 
  Don’t practice by looking in a mirror. That will cause you to 
fixate on your facial gestures and mannerisms. 
  Instead, practice on a ‘tactful’ friend or relative or simply 
run the presentation in your mind or voice it to yourself 
while becoming familiar with the outline. 
  Practice under realistic conditions. 
  Visualize the audience as you speak. 
  Practice using your outline unobtrusively. 
  Time your speech. 
  Time each portion of your speech (introduction, body, and 
  If the speech is too long, look for extraneous material that 
can be cut. 
  If the speech is too short, review your evidence and make 
certain that you have adequately supported your main 
  Evaluate and adjust your rate of speech. Slow down! 
Presenting Before a Group 
Getting Comfortable 
  Exhibit enthusiasm. 
  Speak about what excites you. 
  Project that enthusiasm through the energy you bring to 
your message. 
  Project a sense of confidence and competence. 
  Focus on the ideas you want to convey rather than on 
  Inspire the audience’s confidence in you by appearing 
confident to them. 
  Engage your audience by being direct. 
  Establish eye contact with your listeners. 
  Use a friendly tone of voice. 
  Smile whenever appropriate. 
  Consider positioning yourself so you are physically close to 
the audience. 
Presenting Before a Group 
Getting Comfortable 
  Animate your facial expressions in a way that is natural and 
appropriate to your speech. 
  Avoid a ‘deadpan’ expression. 
  Establish a rapport with your audience. 
  Don’t feel compelled to use expressions that are out of 
character for you. 
  Maintain eye contact with your audience. 
  Let your listeners know that you recognize and respect 
them by establishing eye contact. 
  Avoid perfunctory glances; make the contact genuine. 
  Read more of your listeners. Practice scanning the room with 
your eyes, pausing to gaze at selected listeners. 
Presenting Before a Group 
Getting Comfortable 
  Use gestures that feel natural. 
  Make sure that your gestures clarify your message. 
  Avoid exaggerating your gestures, but make them broad 
enough to be seen by each member of the audience. 
  Use gestures that arise from your feelings and conform to 
your own personality. 
  Pay attention to your attire and grooming. 
  Clothing and grooming will be the first thing that your 
audience notices. 
  Dress appropriately for the occasion. 
  Dark-colored suits (for both men and women) convey a 
sense of authority and power. 
Managing a Meeting 
  Do create an environment of equality. 
  Stand to shake hands when someone walks into the room 
(whether male or female). 
  Respect the leader. 
  Discuss, don’t argue. Don’t slump; it’s not professional and 
shows disrespect. 
  Don’t create non-verbal barriers, like crossing your arms 
across your chest or putting your hands on your hips. 
  Demonstrate a high level of energy and enthusiasm. 
  Listen and show respect by paraphrasing what people say. 
  Don’t spout off unless you know what you are talking about! 
  Don’t purposely introduce controversial topics. 
Managing a Meeting 
  Plan for your meeting and create an agenda you can stick to. 
  Avoid personal comments unless you know the group members 
very well. 
  Don’t allow the meeting to deteriorate into a discussion of 
technical jargon that leaves some of the members out. 
  Start and end meetings on time. 
  Don’t recap information for latecomers. 
  Stand up and go to a flip chart when you need to make an 
important point. 
  Observe the audience. 
Managing a Meeting 
  Control your hands, don’t fiddle with pens, markers, or any 
part of your clothing or hair. 
  Turn off all cell phones and pagers. 
  End the meeting with actions. 
“To speak and to speak well are two things. 
A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks” 
Ben Johnson 

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