Best Practice

Grammar Matters and Style Rules in Presentations, Too

Before you deliver a presentation, you do a lot of checking. It could run something like this: Notes? Check! Pointer? Check! Water? Check! Cough drops? Check! Glasses? Check! Distracting, shiny name badge off? Check! Distracting, shiny jewelry off? Check! Clothing appropriate and immaculate? Check! Shoes polished? Check!

typo mistake on powerpoint slideBut did you remember to check your presentation itself for annoying distractions like typos and ungrammatical phrasing in the headlines and body of the slide text? Asking a colleague to help you proofread and polish your presentation shouldn’t be an optional check but instead an integral part of the process of finalizing your presentation.

It’s easy to overlook errors that will lower the persuasive impact of your presentation. It happens to all of us. Check back on this site shortly as I’m reaching out to my virtual colleagues in various discussion groups to gather some ”headline howlers and hiccups” that they’ve seen in their industry.

Do you have a dedicated person to help you polish your presentations and make them more powerful every time? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

See also: Grammar Matters and Style Rules, Part 1: Practical Style Guides for Thought Leaders

Photo Credit: Brett Jordan

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Grammar Matters and Style Rules! Practical Style Guides for Thought Leaders

style guidesTeaching is on my mind right now as the schools in Zurich have recently opened. That’s because I once was an English teacher—and once an English teacher, always an English teacher.

In fact, when I moved from academia into the business world, I retained my reputation as a Grammar Guru and a Punctuation Policewoman. I plead ”intentionally guilty” to the charge of insisting on high-quality, mistake-free writing in business documents that matter. And they all matter.

Yes, as a thought leader, even your emails should be error free when it comes to grammar and style. Advanced tools help you to spell-check and grammar-check, and there’s even a fail-safe way to ensure you don’t hit send without taking time to confirm its accuracy one last time. (Contact me if you need instructions on that.)

But more critical documents require more thorough editing and proofreading to make sure your messages have the impact you intend. Subtle changes in style and tone and improve the persuasive value of your writing. Grammatical ”guffaws” and ”gaffes” can devalue your discourse.

Many businesses today are recognizing that reality and trying to rectify it. In a 2012 survey  conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management and AARP, nearly half (45%) of 430 employers said they were adding training programs to improve employees’ grammar skills.

Several style guides exist to help you polish your writing style; some of these books you’ll remember from your own English classes.

5 Practical Reference Sources for Grammar and Style

Your company’s communications team may have a style guide of its own or at least a strong preference about which one to use. The key to raising the quality bar is to demand consistency in style and grammar…Consistently right, that is.

Do you need a brush-up on how “grammar matters and style rules”? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Photo Credit: Terry Freedman

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A 10-Step Starter Kit for Kick-Starting a Start-Up Company

If you’re launching a new company, you’ll want to create a thought-leadership strategy to cement your reputation. Follow these 10 steps (and see our companion visual guide) to develop a plan that will guide you as you kick-start your start-up:

  1. Define Goals and Metrics
  2. Create Strategic Communications Plan
  3. Clean Up/Archive Content on Company’s Current Websites
  4. Review Existing Brand Materials for Consistency of Style and Voice
  5. Create a Reservoir of Provocative Blog Posts
  6. Finalize Website Content
  7. Design Launch Events
  8. Design Thought Leadership Plan for Post Launch
  9. Build/Document Internal Communications Processes
  10. Develop External Communications/Media/Branding Guidelines

Do you need help implementing any of these steps? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Five Steps for Rolling out Employee Survey Results

graph comparing actual versus normal

How will you translate aggregated employee survey results into authentic, meaningful communications?

Your employee survey results have just landed on your desk. Remain calm.

Here are five steps to follow when you as a leader communicate the results internally, and even externally:

  1. Categorize the results into a four-square grid with ”urgent” on the x axis and ”important” on the y axis.
  2. Work with your communications team to develop a message architecture that provides clear context, consistent messages and careful action plans for rolling out the results.
  3. In these communications, ask for leaders and employees in different levels or roles inside the organization to volunteer to guide the change program based on the survey results.
  4. Set up a ”rapid roundtable” work session with those volunteers to determine the specific issues underlying the worst scores in the urgent/important grid, to identify the impact of those prioritized issues and to offer ideas for amelioration.
  5. Ask the volunteer work group to identify interesting, noteworthy results that might attract media attention, if appropriate, and then task the communications team to create an external communications plan.

Internal and external audiences alike demand ”authentic” communication pieces that celebrate the successes revealed by the data but still recognize the shortcomings your company needs to improve.

Do you need help rolling out the results of your latest employee survey? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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5 Actions for Leaders in the Golden Hour of a Crisis

fire exit signA recent article floating around the blogosphere focused on the “golden hours” of crisis communications. Those are the critical hours immediately following an event when information is incomplete but audiences are continuously seeking additional facts.

The article lists five steps as the “Grand Crisis Response Strategy” for covering those first stages of the crisis.

1. Stop the production of victims. Continuous victim production is what drives the media coverage, the public interest, the emotionalization, the commentary and criticism from 1000 sources and the reputation destruction.
2. Manage the victim dimension. This is what leaders and senior managers should be doing rather than hanging around and second-guessing the command center.
3. Communicate directly and frequently with employees, stakeholders, and those directly affected
4. Notify those indirectly affected, those who have a problem now because you have a problem; regulators, licensing authorities, neighbors, partners, those who need to know and who should hear from you very promptly.
5. Manage the self-appointed and the self-anointed; the news media and the new media, those who opt in on their own, the critics, the bellyachers, the backbench bickerers, the bloviators.

Are you prepared to make good use of that valuable time window? Ask, assess then act. We’re here to help!

Photo: Paul Harrison

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Three Ways to Electrify Your Organization

Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Air 1816 Painting Benjamin West Philadelphia Museum of Art

Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky 1816 – Benjamin West (Public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

As a thought leader, you may find it more difficult to build your reputation internally than externally. Think, for example, about the saying that ”Genius is never recognized on its own soil.” Your communications team can and should help you build your professional brand internally while they work on developing your reputation in the industry.

My husband trained as an engineer and uses a great metaphor about electricity when he coaches team leaders. Applied to communications, these message-multiplier teams can help to electrify your organization in three ways. At the least, communications teams are transistors or transformers. At their best, they are transducers of the energy inside their organization.

Transistor teams simply send out messages like radio signals, rather than acting like radar, which also listens for responses. This is the least effective of the three ways to communicate internally.

A transformer communications team takes the same energy inside the organization and

At the least, communications teams are transistors or transformers. At their best, they are transducers of the energy inside their organization.
boosts it up or steps it down as appropriate to the situation. When false rumors are floating around inside an organization, for instance, a transformer team might communicate hard facts to take the energy out of the watercooler discussions. Or when a new sales campaign is launched, the transformer team might energize their employees with an electrifying communications campaign.

The third, most effective way to electrify your organization is by establishing a transducer communications team that will create a different form of energy within your company. Transducers will convert the strategic energy that exists at the top of the organization and the operational energy and dedication of the employees into a new energy source to drive the company.

Do you have transistor, transformer or transducer communications teams to help electrify your organization? Ask, assess then act. We’re here to help!

See related post: Sending the right and wrong signals

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Putting it together: read our most popular Thought Leader Zone Post Series

post series part 1 2 3 thoughtleaderzone.comSome topics demand more than a single blog post. That’s why we’ve discussed several timely, key topics as a multi-part series. This compilations list provides easy links to our 5 most most popular series.

Leadership, Communications and the Annual General Meeting

Being a Social CEO

Planning for the CEO’s First 100 Days

Pink Matters: Female Leadership

Gray Matters: Cross-generational Leadership for Age 50+ Executives

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11 Questions and Prompts for Insightful Debriefing Sessions

flow chart for debriefing sessionIn order to create a powerful “learning organisation,” your management team needs to be able to share lessons learned among themselves in a systematic way. Structured debrief sessions following major projects can help your leaders learn from their successes, as well as the times they could have done better.

Debriefing sessions shouldn’t be viewed as negative finger-pointing exercises but as opportunities to acknowledge successes and challenges and then to empower each leader to help others in the organisation learn from their experiences.

Before the debriefing session begins, a strong discussion leader should be appointed who will encourage everyone to contribute but won’t allow personal attacks to derail the conversation.

Here are 11 prompt questions that can be used to guide the discussion during a debriefing session: Continue Reading…

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External Appointment Announcements – Subtle Signals from Your Competitors

decoding external appointment announcements: your competitors are revealing signals and strategies, can you spot them?One of the ”tricks of the trade” for competitive intelligence professionals is to look at job vacancy ads and subsequent appointment announcements. These provide clues that allow you to analyze whether the new roles being announced reflect a change in strategic direction for your competitors. Continue Reading…

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Internal Appointment Announcements – Subtle Teaching Moments for Your Employees

use internal appointment announcements as employee teaching momentsWe’re all curious by nature, and that carries over into the business world. When new people join a company and the appointment announcement is posted, employees ”naturally” want to know more about them.

Who are these new joiners and where did they come from to get here? Why are they being appointed now? What have they done to be prepared for success in these roles? What do their new roles entail? Questions, questions… Continue Reading…

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