Teaching English for Communicative Performance and Business Communication

It is a challenge to us English teachers to manage with our own widely differing linguistic competence the large classes of mixed ability students. Non-availability or high cost of books and instructional material are the challenges just as tests and exams seem to have become the only goal in themselves. In addition, lack of students'(and even teachers’) motivation, administrative apathy, inaccessibility to electronic media, journals and books, balance between the use of mother tongue and English to ensure acquisition of communication skills, or perhaps, a better teaching-learning situation in the mother tongue and other languages, and dissemination of best English Language Teaching (ELT) practices internationally, with an e-culture interface are the new problems teachers have to cope with.

As teachers we need to work on our own affirmative action programmes, despite constraints of our situation. In order to do something new, we may have to give up the old. As John Swales says, “We may need to recycle not only our projects and our programmes but also ourselves.” In fact a practical teacher should be able to operate within, what may be called, “here and now” state of affairs. It is with some sort of inbuilt flexibility and utilitarian purpose that one can practice ELT in the days ahead.

NEGOTIATING DIFFERENCES

With sensitivity for the language (to me, language use is more a matter of pleasure and beauty than of rules and structure), I would like to assert that the yardsticks of the British or American native speakers, or their standards as reflected in GRE, TOEFL or IELTS etc, or their kind of tongue twisting, are simply damaging to the interests of non-native speakers. We have to develop our own standards, instead of teaching to sound like Londoners or North Americans. Pronunciation must be intelligible and not detract from the understanding of a message. But for this nobody needs to speak the so called standardized English (that makes inter- and intra-national communication difficult). David Crystal too appreciates this reality and favours ‘local taste’ of English in India and elsewhere. The problems of teaching, say spoken English, relate to lack of intercultural communicative competence.

Many of the misunderstandings that occur in multicultural or multinational workplace are traceable to inter-group differences in how language is used in interpersonal communication rather than to lack of fluency in English. In fact native speakers need as much help as non-natives when using English to interact internationally and inter-culturally. It is understanding the how of negotiation, mediation, or interaction. We need to teach with positive attitude to intercultural communication, negotiating linguistic and cultural differences. The focus has to be on developing cultural and intercultural competence, tolerance (the spread and development of various Englishes is an instance of grammatical and lexical tolerance), and mutual understanding. Rules of language use are culturally determined. I doubt all those who talk about spoken English, or communication skills, care to teach or develop intercultural communicative abilities. This presupposes a good grasp of one’s own culture or way of communication, or the language etiquette, gestures and postures, space, silence, cultural influences, verbal style etc.

Understanding and awareness of non-verbal behavior, cues and information is an integral part of interpersonal communication in many real-life situations, including business and commerce. Though research is needed to understand the role of visual support in our situations, it does seem relevant in making students aware of the context, discourse, paralinguistic features and culture. This can be advantageous in teaching soft skills which are basically life skills, or abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour, so necessary for successful living.

If one has to work abroad and use English with others there, one has to be sensitive to the culturally governed ways of speaking or talking to each other. The speech community’s (the language culture of the group of people) ways of communication cannot be taken for granted, when one seeks to learn or teach spoken English. People fail or suffer discomfort or embarrassment in negotiations in business or political affairs, or achievement of personal goals due to incompetence in persuasion, negotiation, mediation, or interaction. It is their performance, their intercultural interactional competence which matters; it lies in managing social interaction, and not just communication, in the narrow sense of the word, or use of right grammatical form, syntax, vocabulary, or even certain polite phrases. The goal is to enable one to express what one wishes to convey and make the impression that one wishes to make, using language with a sense of interaction and mutuality.

BUSINESS COMMUNICATION

In the context of Business Communication, it is not without a sense of social business for creating value and better business outcome. One needs to demonstrate social insights, too, in the use of, say, (social) networking sites, smart phones, mobile, tablet PCs, voice mail, electronic mail, and other e-business instruments such as computer network, teleconferencing and video conferencing that are being integrated to enterprise design. This means one needs to be able to share information, discover expertise, capitalize on relationship, and be collaborative in creatively solving business challenges. One needs to demonstrate leadership and management traits, innovation, and decision-making; one needs to be able to identify oneself with the shared values and beliefs of the organization one is associated with; and more importantly, one needs to demonstrate intercultural and interactive abilities with sensitivity for change and adaptation, if one is working in a foreign country or in a multinational company.

In short, one’s personal communication, both oral or written, needs to be in tune with the communication philosophy — goals and values, aspirations and pledges, beliefs and policies– of the organization one is working for, just as one should be able to blend with the host culture.

When I mention intercultural interaction, I point to the need for adapting to differences in life style, language, business philosophy as well as problems with finances, government, cultural shock, housing, food, gender, family etc. Although many of the people sent on foreign assignment know their (foreign) market, they are often unable to accept another culture on that culture’s terms even for short periods. Sensitivity for intercultural business environment, or being aware of each culture’s symbols, how they are the same, and how they are different, is important.

COMMUNICATIVE PERFORMANCE

The staff development programme of this kind provides us with an opportunity to revisit the issues related to ‘communicative’ teaching, in general, and business communication, in particular. If communication is the aim of English (or any other language) teaching and ‘communicative’ syllabuses fail to develop what Dell Hymes called ‘communicative competence’ and Noam Chomsky mentioned as communicative performance, we need to reflect on our classroom practices, research and materials production from time to time. Chomsky’s focus was on the sentence-level grammatical competence of an ideal speaker-listener of a language, and Hymes, as a sociolinguist, was concerned with real speaker-listeners who interpret, express, and negotiate meaning in many different social settings; he brought into focus the view of language as a social phenomenon and reflected on its use as units of discourse. Socializing competence and performance, Dell Hymes also mentioned ‘appropriateness’, that is, “when to speak, when not, and as to what to talk about and with whom, when, where, in what manner.” This concept of “appropriate use” as ‘communicative competence’ was accepted by Chomsky and called “pragmatic competence” (i.e. rules of use). Thus, Dell Hymes ‘communicative’ is Chomsky’s ‘pragmatic’ and includes knowledge of sociolinguistic rules, or the appropriateness of an utterance, in addition to knowledge of grammar rules. The term has come to negotiate meaning, to successfully combine a knowledge of linguistic and sociolinguistic rules in communicative interaction, both oral and written.

Michael Canale and Merril Swain in various papers on communicative competence have referred to “appropriacy” in terms of ‘sociolinguistic competence’. In fact, they offer another term “strategic competence”, that is, the ability to use communication strategies like approximation (or paraphrase strategy, using, for example, ‘pipe’ for waterpipe or ‘flower’ for leaf to come close to the intended meanings), word-coinage, circumlocution (i.e. describing objects or ideas using “It looks like…”, “It’s made of…” etc when one temporarily forgets an exact word), borrowing including literal translation and language mix, appeal for assistance, ie. asking for information appropriately using “Excuse me,” “Could you…?” “What’s the word for…?” “I didn’t know how to say it,” etc). mime and all that. Their strategic competence(Canale and Swain) refers to the ability to enhance or repair conversations and means the same as Chomsky’s ‘pragmatic competence’ or Fluency. Brumfit and others too have used the term ‘pragmatic’ in the sense of fluency.

Thus, communicative competence consists of LINGUISTIC competence (ACCURACY), PRAGMATIC competence (FLUENCY), and SOCIOLINGUISTIC
competence (APPROPRIACY).

The Linguistic competence or Accuracy in communication is much broader than mere grammatical competence; it includes the linguistic domains of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation as well as the linguistic skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing, spelling, discourse (particularly interconnections and interdependence of the sentences and paragraphs), and the ability to contrast with the mother tongue.

The pragmatic competence or Fluency in communication relates to ease and speed of expression, i.e. how to keep talking, how not to remain silent because one doesn’t know the word (the skill of paraphrasing), and other strategies of learning, including how to listen to oneself and so be able to self-correct and self-edit at once; that is, the ability to monitor immediately.

The sociolinguistic competence or Appropriacy includes varieties of text types (stories, dialogues, non-fiction passages etc) and functions of the language, different levels/degrees of formality or informality, or appropriacy and use of language in authentic situations.

I doubt if we follow such a communicative curriculum with understanding of communicative competence in terms of linguistic ability, pragmatic ability and sociolinguistic ability. But its adoption should help students become independent learners; it should equip them with linguistic forms, means, and strategies that would help them overcome communication difficulties both inside and outside the classroom. From this perspective, communicative competence should be thought of as communicative performance just as a communicative syllabus should be essentially performance-based, that is, increasing the learner’s proficiency.

To quote Brendan Carroll: “The use of a language is the objective, and the mastery of the formal patterns, or usage, of the language is a means to achieve this objective. The ultimate criterion of language mastery is therefore the learner’s effectiveness in communication for the settings he finds himself in.”

POOR COMMUNICATIVE PERFORMANCE

Work-related skills such as team work, cultural awareness, leadership, communication and I.T. skills are as vital as academic achievement for Business/Management students. It would be poor communicative performance if, for example, someone makes a multimedia presentation without knowing how to use the equipment and experiences technical difficulties, or “tries to liven up a dull topic merely by adding flashy graphics rather than by improving the content of the presentation. People who attend meetings unprepared waste others’ time. People with poor listening skills frustrate those who have to repeat information for them. Those who make inappropriate grammatical or vocabulary choices embarrass themselves and those around them. Incompetent communicators hurt the organization they represent. This has especially been the case with hastily sent emails composed in a moment of anger.”

POSITIVE ATTITUDE NEEDED

Academic or professional communication skills, both written and oral, have to be imparted in such a way that students in their contexts are able to identify their own language learning needs and to set their own language learning goals. At college and university level, teachers may act as facilitators, just as they would need to teach with positive attitude for inter- and intra-cultural communication, the skills of negotiating linguistic and cultural differences.

It is with this sensibility for English language and its teaching in various contexts that I speak to you. Yet, as I say all this, I keep in mind the ground reality: that is, poor literacy skills, fluency, and even comprehension; poor communicative ability, with limited experiences in writing, speaking and listening unless, of course, teaching of English as a Second, or additional language improves from school level and need for a supportive classroom climate and positive student attitudes towards learning at post secondary level is recognized. Also, both teachers and students need to be aware of what to do, how to do it, and when and why to do it, as part of practicing self-regulation strategies.

The English Language Teaching community as also the other stake holders in the country should, therefore, revise and reformulate appropriate strategies and policies, with tolerance and multilingualism at the core, to remain relevant in the coming decades. The objective of looking back is to move forward with a reasoned perspective for taking measures to develop communication abilities and higher discourse competence, with a broadened inter- and cross-disciplinary bases, for learning to understand (rather than memorize) and apply in one’s own contexts.

COMMUNICATION IN BUSINESS

The digression apart, let me now come back to teaching communication in business. In terms of ESP, we should be aware of the ‘specific purposes’ of what we do in the classroom, just as we should do it in terms of students’ specific needs. For example, if we teach written communication, we teach it in the specific context of Business, maybe, where applicable, in terms of ‘rhetorical functions’, with a sense of logical organization of knowledge or information, as noticed in actual use. Students need to be exposed to range of authentic report material from business, commerce, finance, administration, marketing, production, personnel etc. They need to understand the logical steps in writing a report, from ‘collecting the information’ through to ‘summarizing’ and ‘appendix’. In short, they need to be presented with task-oriented activities that are both challenging and authentic in the field of business: they need to be forced to read and think about the content of the report; they need to be made to think about the structure and organization of the report; they need to think about the language used to express the content; and they have to be made to apply this knowledge to the skill of writing a report. The variety of writing exercises may include paragraph writing, expansion of notes, completion of paragraphs, sequencing of sentences into paragraph, and using the right punctuation marks, connectives, sub-headings, presentation of non-verbal information or transfer of information from text to diagram (graph, chart, table, outline etc); linking findings, conclusions and recommendations, extracting main points for making descriptive and evaluative summaries etc. We teach all this in terms of what the students already know and what they need to know. They unlearn, learn, and re-learn, both formal and informal expressions, within the conventions of the discipline they belong to.

As I already said, their career success depends on good writing and speaking skills, along with proper etiquette and listening skills and understanding skills. Skills that need particular attention are informational and analytical report writing, proposal writing, memo writing, letter writing, oral presentation, and a sense of grammar, punctuation, word, sentence and paragraph.

The methodology should encourage students to learn from each other via activities both of a productive kind and of a receptive nature. We may exploit developments in the case study approach, use role plays and simulations that place the students in realistic and stimulating situations to create spontaneous personal interaction and creative use of the language in a business context.

A mix of the task based approach, group work, and simulations should help the future business people develop the skills for meeting and negotiating as also for the necessary mastery of English for functioning autonomously in the field. The challenge is not to teach a descriptive course on discourse, but to provide for a pragmatic and custom-tailored input, ready for processing by the learners in an authentic learning environment.

In other words, in stead of mere ‘business communication’, the emphasis has to be on, what I already mentioned, ‘interaction in business context’. It is not merely the language of business, but also the cultural conventions of meetings and negotiations in an intercultural setting that one has to be aware of, and learn. As far as teaching is concerned, it is rather helping students with learning how to learn, how to create the learning opportunities for themselves, and understanding the ways in which language and business strategies interact. If we follow a learner-centred approach, a three-step procedure could be: first, to illustrate (=a good model), then, to induce (=induction for effective learning by the learner), and finally, to interact (=the outcome).

I would like to quote Christopher Brumfit from his opening speech to SPEAQ Convention in Quebec City (in June 1982): “…Being communicative is as much or more a matter of methodology as of syllabus or materials, and methodology is something that teachers are uniquely qualified to contribute to. We should therefore be willing to use our expertise, to innovate, to improve, to inform each other, and to criticize.” What we are doing here, friends, is just to make a beginning, the beginning of a process of communicating, of understanding, that we can start but cannot finish.

ECLECTIC APPROACH

I am aware that there is no universal teaching method or ideal teaching material suited to many contexts of language teaching. Whatever didactic techniques one knows without excluding the behaviouristic drills, and practice and use of mother tongue, where appropriate, are all valid at different points in the teaching process. I stand for an eclectic approach as different methods for different students have always worked and there has not been one best method any time. With our freedom to choose and adopt any notion that serves our teaching ends, with a reasonable degree of historical sense, flexibility and adaptability that allows us to select among a variety of approaches, methods and techniques, we can meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. I see teaching communicatively essentially consisting of an eclectic methodology which incorporates what is valuable in any system or method of teaching and refuses to recognize bad teaching or defective learning. In any educational setting, sensitive and sensible application and continuing evaluation of the chosen practices should be inbuilt.

English has been practised in a social, economic, political, educational and philosophical “hot-house”, to use Peter Strevens’ expression, and the hot-house in India differs in quality from state to state. It is necessary to create an enabling environment – managerial, administrative, institutional, academic, and curricular-to promote not only quality education and effective learning with exposure to lots of natural, meaningful and understandable language, but also genuine communication. This means learners should read and listen to live language; they should speak and write it in ways that can be understood by educated speakers everywhere. Moreover, they should eventually be able to produce and comprehend culturally appropriate natural discourse.

SUMMING UP

To sum up, we as teachers need to recognize the changes that have shaken all human conditions with new technology, new social structures, new values, new human relations, new functions. As Young Yun Kim notes: “The complexity, diversity, and rapid pace of change makes us ‘strangers’ in our own society.” The challenge is, to understand the “sameness in differences” for international/intercultural exchanges, or learning business negotiations and written communication. Language teaching alone may not develop communicative abilities in business English unless we realize that learning the language implies learning the culture also-one’s own culture and other’s culture. It is language and culture teaching together and sharing the “us” and “them” differences to reflect on one’s own culture from the viewpoint of an outsider, and thus, become less ethnocentric and more tolerant of the values of the foreign people and their ways.

The ESP of business communication seems highly culturally biased and value based, even as Western ethno-centricism, including the North American, may not be the answer to our communicative difficulties. But we have to be OPEN to all local peculiarities to communication and interaction. If we view English as the lingua franca for business negotiations, we should also not forget that it is NOT the mother tongue of any or most of the negotiators. To that extent, the English used is commonly a variety in which the mother tongue interferes not only phonetically and phonologically, but also in the cultural norms and attitudes expressed by the speakers. To quote Susanne Neimeir, “Their non-verbal behavior, for example, does not automatically switch to an ‘Englishized’ non-verbal behavior but normally stays rooted in their home culture. Thus, even when they think the negotiation partner should have understood (verbal and non-verbal) signs they are using, misunderstandings still occur because signs may be differently encoded-and decoded-on the other’s cultures or may not be noticed to be signs at all.”

Therefore, we need to sensitize students to cultural richness and cultural diversity for developing mutual understanding and using individual and group knowledge constructively, and not stereotypically, in learning skills of business communication, both oral and written. It also seems imperative to integrate discourse analysis, decision-making and generic patterns of meetings and effective conversation and the role of cultural influences for success in actual business situations. In fact, it is significant to provide professional students with opportunities to experience what it means to communicate and to do business with different people who obviously are alike in several basic ways.

In today’s globalized business context, while teachers of business English have to be aware of various analytical and practical approaches to business communication, especially as intercultural understanding and strategies of flexibility, adaptability and tolerance are some of the keys to make the best of economic opportunities, students of Business communication have to learn to find their own strategies, or use of structural and stylistic devices for successful business interaction. Their verbal communication in the ‘ESL’ context, to my mind, would be largely ‘EIL’ to be able to work together, using English as the common language.

Ways to Improve Business Communication

Effective communication is very important to run a business successfully. Good communication can endear you among your clients, increase your brand image among your seniors, and cause you to be admired among those work under you. It can also help you in taking your business to the next level and earn you high profits. On the other hand, poor communication can limit the efficiency of your company. It may result in missing vital business deadlines, duplicity in work processes, and most importantly can suffer employee morale. According to a study conducted by Global English reveals, “97% of employees surveyed believe that poor communication as a result of inadequate business language skills can create misunderstanding”.

Often, there is a lot of disconnect in the communication process, which can prove very costly to a business. It may be verbal misinterpretations, lack of interaction, lost emails and unclear texts or poorly-worded messages. Effective communication – both internal and external, increase organization’s effectiveness, enables smooth operations and helps in reducing business contingencies. Communication is generally of two types – Digital and Interpersonal. Here are some useful tips to improve these two, that can benefit your organization and keep the things sailing smoothly.

Digital Communication: Most of the business communication is usually done using digital medium, like email. Writing email or text messages is easy when we are done with a friend. The target audience in business are corporate stakeholders, so it’s always better to be formal. Even a minor mistake in your written communication could negatively impact your credibility. It can result in loss of reputation and business as well. Below are the basic points you should follow while drafting a business proposal, email or other business letters:

Always treat emails like the real mails, not just the digital letters. While drafting an email, use powerful words, develop a natural voice, work toward your aim and present a clear deadline.

Craft the email carefully. Go back, check and edit for more clarity. Polish each and every sentence to keep the communication straight, positive and effective.

Don’t put any wrong or unclear information. Check your facts before sending the mail. Any wrong information makes you look like that you haven’t done your homework.

Don’t use any Emoticons, Colloquialisms and Slang, it may result in loss of translation and the person reading your mail may not understand what you are talking about. Keep it simple and to the point.

Choose the best subject line for your message. The subject line is the first introduction to the content of the message to the recipients’. Also, it helps in keeping your message out of spam box.

And, the most important is to archive all your business communication. Create folders to save all the old emails. It will help you in finding any communication easily in the future.

Interpersonal Communication: It is a face-to-face communication and involves exchanging information and the meaning via verbal and non-verbal messages. Sometimes, an email or a text just isn’t sufficient. Digital communication doesn’t involve any direct communication. Nobody sees you how your writing, but when you meet someone face-to-face, many things matter, such as your tone, body language and eye contact. Your message should be clear, concise and direct to the point. Add below mentioned tips in your interpersonal communication to make it meaningful:

Be confident while meeting your clients or superiors and don’t feel shy in person-to-person meetings. Maintain a proper eye contact to make a good impression.

Listen carefully and give your complete attention to the conversation. Understand what the opposite person is saying and then give your own thoughts.

Focus on your speech. Think before you speak and don’t get confused with your own words. Doing this, will dilute the purpose of face-to-face meeting.

Keep the communication professional, and avoid making it too personal. It’s good to befriend with people you are working, but don’t make it too friendly.

Never counter the opinion of your client, even if you disagree. It may offend them. Listen to them attentively, then keep your viewpoint and explain why you disagree with them. But, ensure to maintain a polite tone.

Ask questions to clear all your doubts and concerns. It will also help in holding the conversation and will generate new ideas that would be helpful in business.

These were the few suggestions, you can implement in your communication strategy and make it effective. Following these, will not only improve your business performance, but also personal improvements you make in your own life. It will also help boost your self-esteem and decision making and also make you stand out of the crowd. Effective communication is always about comprehending the other individual, not about forcing your opinions on others and winning an argument.

Business Communication Skills

Improving Business Communication skills is incredibly significant in case you desire to turn into a genuine professional. This review focuses on business communication styles and how to develop them.

Constituents of business communications skills:

If you happen to working inside an organization, you have got undoubtedly understood how significant corporation communication skills are. Organization communication skills play a quite critical role in helping employees communicate with one another in an efficient manner. In business communication there typically are a couple of major varieties of communication, internal and external. In internal communication, there is a transfer of knowledge among a couple of or far more entities among the businesses. On the other hand, in external communication, the knowledge transfer is carried out among the business employees and outside entities. Both these types of communication are significant to your smooth running of any business concern. Let us get know far more within the aspects of business interpersonal skills and organizational skills inside the workplace.

Public speaking:
As the name suggests, public speaking is a speech in front of many people, be it inside a smaller technique meeting or a big conference. This skill stands out as the most significant for executives at higher positions. You ought to develop your skills with relating to how you are heading to present the facts inside a structured manner.

Email and report writing skills:
Writing skills are quite essential for all employees in the organization, irrespective of the position. Writing emails, reports schedules are daily tasks carried out inside a business in its everyday running. After using written approaches of communication in business, remember to hold it short, formal and precise.

Negotiation skills:
Negotiation skills are commonly applied by those who are working in promoting and communication processes in the business. These skills are required during telecommunication, written communication or face to face communication. Negotiation approaches are also regarded as probably the most needed business trouble solving skills.

Follow up skills:
Several working professionals follow an incomplete process of communication. They transfer knowledge from their side, but do not make certain whether the receiver has got the response and understood what is necessary or not. Follow up of facts is what each executive has to perform for creating the communication cycle complete.

Telephone skills:
One more important aspect of business communication skills is how we sound over a telephone. Communication via telephone is extremely popular in today’s business world and to pass over a message clearly, you have to develop beneficial telephone skills. These oral communication skills need to be improved in particular by those people working in the client support sector.

Voice tone and physique language:
During face to face workplace communication, you need to have a pleasant and humble tone. Do not speak in a toe that would give an authoritative and rude touch towards speech. Along with your tone, you need to also be in an excellent and confident posture.

Exercise business listening skills by giving others a chance to speak out and realize what they got to say.

These are several random concepts included in business communication skills. Owing towards the value of business communication skills, several business concern have kicked off to arrange for employee training sessions. Along with these approaches at the workplace, you also need to develop trust among employees for trustworthy and clear communication. When it comes to highly effective business communication, effective listening is the probably most vital essential. Remember that clear communication often leads to anticipated results.

How To Guarantee Effective Business Communication

Effective business communication is a priority for any business that wants to develop value in its business relationships. If you find that your business relationships are faltering, you may need to learn how effective business communication works so you can apply it to your business.

Business communication can be broken down into two major types:

1) internal and

2) external.

Under internal, we can find some examples of this type of business communication:

– communication of corporate vision

– communication of corporate strategies

– communication of corporate plans

– communication of corporate culture

– communication of shared values

– communication of guiding principles

– communication to motivate employees

– communication to generate ideas

Under external business communication, some examples exist such as:

– branding

– marketing

– advertising

– customer relations

– public relations

– media relations

– business negotiations

All these examples of business communication share a commonality – to produce value for the business. To become masters at it, it is important to understand that we communicate what we perceive. So to become a master at it, you should know how to manage perceptions.

Business leaders and followers alike have to figure out how their customers perceive them. There are customers who favor their sense of sight, so to reach out to such customers, the business has to promote itself through visual means. There are customers who prefer to taste and feel things, so perhaps the business could provide samples of its products to give the customer a favorable perception of what that business is about. Other customers prefer to rely on what they hear from other people and from media – such customers may be wooed through catchy music (like background music played in malls and car showrooms.)

When a negative perception exists among many people and the business does not take steps to correct this mis-perception, business will have a harder time to correct this and later reach out to the affected customers. And when a mis-perception goes uncorrected for a prolonged period of time, the mis-perception may become absorbed into the belief system of the customers. This could be disastrous for the company. This is why many businesses invest so much money into conducting surveys – they want to find out how their customers perceive them so that problems can be caught early on.

Even the very employees of the business may have a negative perception of the business – a problem exists with the company’s internal means of communication. Many business leaders are aware of this so they make an effort to reach out to their employees and find out what they are thinking.

Even surveys about management performance whose respondents are anonymous are useful because they give management a good idea of how they are perceived by their own followers. When employees are disgruntled but find it difficult to voice out their opinions for fear of reprisals, they may react in negative ways – like sabotaging the company’s product or service. Or the business may experience fast employee turnover, resulting in losses for a business which has invested heavily in employee training.

So, to improve internal and external business communication, organizations should do the following:

1) Constantly reach out to target audiences through various means (i.e. surveys, online contact forms, targeted mailings of questionnaires)

2) Review the content of feedback and figure out how the feedback can be integrated into future business activities

3) Inform target audiences of improvements and changes that have been done because of their feedback.

A business that takes these steps will find that effective business communication is not so impossible to achieve after all.

Stop, Collaborate and Engage – Small Business Communication and Social Media Tools For Entrepreneurs

From smoke signals and carrier pigeons to smartphones and their ubiquitous apps, the way people interact across distances has drastically evolved. With each passing year, innovation appoints a new form of communication as revolutionary while decrying another form as passé.

During the past six months, you’ve probably learned what a “tweet” is and what it means to “friend” someone. Though both are interesting new forms of interaction, their applications to small business communication are less clear.

Twitter and Facebook are, at their most basic levels, additional channels aiding in small business communication. Like print or broadcast advertising, these social media initiatives allow a company to directly communicate with consumers. Though unlike advertising, these services allow for two-way communication where your audience – which includes customers, prospects, advocates, government entities and the general public – can respond. It is this engagement where many companies fall flat.

Kicking Off Your Social Media Initiatives

Simply setting up a Twitter handle and Facebook page does not plug you into the social media ether. Managing these accounts and consistently updating them is vital, so much so that many large companies are hiring full-time employees to man their social media initiatives. For entrepreneurs with limited time, there are many applications that can help you manage content for both services in one place, like Digsby (which has instant messaging integration as well), Brizzly or TweetDeck.

For entrepreneurs new to Twitter or other social media initiatives, the best approach is to do a few searches on words that are relevant to your business and try to find a handful of experts in your field to follow. Then, spend your first few days just “listening” to the conversation from these experts, resisting the urge to start singing the praises of your product or broadcasting your message. Once you get a feel for the kinds of things people talk about and how they do it on Twitter, start with the 2, 2, 2 rule. Post 2 original things, re-tweet two posts you find interesting or useful, and reply to two people about something they tweeted. This is a good way to be a valuable participant and to increase your “followers” number as people find the things you have to say to be useful.

For most entrepreneurs, a significant investment of time and resources strictly for social media initiatives is not feasible. Depending on a company’s level of commitment to increasing its small business communication efforts, social media may not be the right channel, right now. But, for those companies that can invest resources to examine the social media landscape, determine if it is right for their business and actively engage in dialogue, Twitter and Facebook can be powerful tools to grow their small business communication strategy.

Though Twitter and Facebook are good starting points, if these social media darlings are where your social media knowledge ends, you need to know about the many other small business communication technologies that allow entrepreneurs to interact with customers and engage prospects.

Oldies but goodies…

The social media landscape has significantly changed the face of small business communication, but it does not mean previous technologies have been rendered useless. “Old” technologies, such as e-mail newsletters, instant messaging and message boards are still active and can still increase productivity (and sales!). Many entrepreneurs already have a strong understanding of these technologies and have probably used them in the past. Consider dusting off that old e-mail newsletter you belong to – you know, the one you haven’t read in 2 years – or do a quick search of what message boards are out there. You may be reminded of and surprised at how useful these seemingly out-of-date services can be.

Some you’ve probably heard of, but may not know the full power of…

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has become the platform for business-focused social networking. By setting up a LinkedIn profile, users are able to post their work history and professional profiles for others to see. This tool presents opportunities for generating new business, reconnecting with old colleagues, and finding a job.

While many business users may have a LinkedIn profile, they may overlook the other small business communication tools LinkedIn provides. For example, LinkedIn Groups are a simple way to create an online forum where customers, prospects and industry insiders can exchange ideas. Similar to an e-mail newsletter, the Group allows invited LinkedIn users to interact with one another and for a company to communicate key messages. With some simple work on the front-end to get the group moving, an entrepreneur can then take a back-seat to let the patients run the asylum – while still maintaining his or her position as the group leader.

Wiki

A wiki (rhymes with tricky) is a website that allows users to edit the content that is posted on the page; the trick to wikis is ensuring the edits are accurate. Wikipedia, for example, is an editable online encyclopedia in which users can edit the content. The reason the information remains accurate is Wikipedia has designated individuals to monitor updates.

From a business perspective, a wiki is a great small business communication tool for companies with geographically distributed offices or teams. Users can post a document or other materials on an internal wiki and allow a group to review and edit the material in one place. Beyond the team collaboration, the wiki also helps with “version control,” a problem that occurs when some users do not have the most up-to-date version of a document. Microsoft’s SharePoint offers companies the ability to make internal wikis, as well as discussion boards.

Some small business communication tools you may not have heard of…

Yammer

Yammer is an enterprise microblogging service – think of it as Twitter for internal business communication. The service allows businesses to create their own internal communication channel and limit use to those who have a valid company e-mail address.

Yammer allows users to post questions, share news, ideas and documents, and post status updates to the entire group. This service allows short messages to be sent and for users to filter the messages they receive so they aren’t bombarded with information that is not relevant to them. Much like a wiki, Yammer allows distributed companies to communicate in a private community, only in shorter bursts.

Ning

Ning lets users create social networks around topics about which they are passionate. Do you love cheese? If so, you can create a cheese lovers community. Do you fear bunnies? Then you can connect with others who share your phobia. With Ning, you create the network that matches your life.

Why should an entrepreneur care about all these different social media initiatives? If your company produces gourmet cheese, that cheese lovers group is a new business goldmine. Are you a psychiatrist just out of med school looking to build a client base? The bunny-phobic network is a breeding ground for potential patients. Whether setting up a targeted social network or joining one already in existence, Ning can connect your business with others that share your unique passions.

What’s more, Ning has one of the more quantifiable ROI models of all social media. Ning’s premium service allows the administrator to run ads on its network (this service does require a fee, though). Not only could you run your own ads, you could potentially run ads from other members of your community, creating a quantifiable revenue stream from your network.

When it comes to social media initiatives, there is no magic bullet to grow your business. But there is a unique combination that is right for every entrepreneur. By balancing time and resources, and examining the social media habits of its customers and prospects, a business can develop a small business communication strategy that will accelerate growth.

Business Communication

INTRODUCTION

Any business would rely and rest on communications be they for official purposes or for enhancing and upgrading their client base and support to flourish their business. For ANY business to develop there has to be a regular, proper as well as a transparent channels of communication hierarchy so that the work flow does not in any manner get hampered and the business happens as a regular occurrence. And business communication is a continuous and an ongoing process- one that speaks volumes about the How’s as well as the Why’s of communication and communication hierarchy both within as well as outside the business enterprise so as to facilitate and augment the work flow even better and faster. As, without an effective, efficient and eloquent channels of communication between the Managers and the staff, or the employees and the external clients, the very business matrix would get null and void. So, in other words, Business Communications form the fundamental edifice of any business functionality.

HOW DO WE ENSURE A GOOD BUSINESS COMMUNICATION IN BUSINESS?

Communication is said to be an art and especially so, if it were Business Communication as this is pivotal for any enterprise to function as well as flourish. Here are a few ready pointers this to happen easily, effectively as well as empathetically:

• ANY business communication, be it oral, written, or a mailer should be logically structured which means that it needs to possess a good opening, a logical content that supports the opening and a proper as well as an apt conclusion- one that summarizes the entire written as well as the spoken topic presented. It has also to be reckoned with that the language spoken has to be lucid and the jargon needs to be easily comprehended and appreciated by the audience of all genres and they get to fathom what is expected of them and they participate thoroughly and comprehensively and get to understand the jist of the entire presentation delivered or written.

• Communication especially Business communication needs to be simple, precise and concise as if it is not articulated properly and if there is an ambiguous usage of words then, it dents the whole meaning and purpose of communication as well as communicating. Choice of words would have to be such that they overcome the cultural barriers and topographies and do not slander the sentiments and the sensibilities of the audience on the whole.

• Business communications should be comprehensive, influencing, persuasive, cogent as well as cohesive. One that follows a set pattern and is sequential apart from being one that is simplistic and easily appreciated.

• One other aspect of Business Communications is that the language adopted be polite, courteous, empathetic apart from being succinct, so as not to offend the sentiments of either their staff as well as their clients.

• It also needs to be remembered that the body language during presentations needs to be positive and approachable. Simple etiquette like maintaining the eye contact during the entire presentation, smiling genuinely and warmly and maintaining a general atmosphere of bonhomie and camaraderie would go great lengths in spreading a positive cheer around.

• Any Business Communication would be negated IF the feedback given would be left unsaid as well as unspoken. For feedback is the ONLY yardstick that would assure the presenter whether the message had reached the audience as it was meant to be intended to reach.

• The usage of more of “You’s” as well as “Why’s” during presentations more than the “I’s”, makes the audience understand that they have been given more value and importance and would also help in facilitating them in participating better during future presentations apart from being more involved.

• One of the most important components of Business Communications is listening. Some of them have this as an intrinsic and innate trait and some others adapt and acquire it over a period of time. Whichever way we look at it, this is again another art that we are either born with or, could cultivate over a period of time. Feedback and Listening go on most occasions hand on glove. The more patient the listening, the more positive that we would accept the feedback as ‘Listening’ jumbled would give us the other simple word ‘silent’. And the more silent we are, the better the listeners that we would be and the more positively we would accept and appreciate the feedback. It goes without saying that, a good speaker would always be a good listener and vice versa.

• The other important factor to be remembered is that we should divest ourselves from being biased, prejudiced and parochial while placing our facts as any biased or partial statement would cloud the entire facts and the receiver could get mired in confusion and the powers-that-be might end up taking a wrong action if the facts are or do not seem complete and comprehensive.

IMPORTANCE OF EFFECTIVE BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS:

Communication forms the crux of any business functions as well as functionalities. All areas be they Marketing, Human Resource, Business Development, Sales need very good as well as glib talkers who possess the gift of the gab to convince and communicate with the customers as well as the clients and acquire the business for their respective organizations. When the Managers fail to communicate with their employees, then it results in a great deal of miscommunication apart from there being serious lacunae in their staff’s understanding and performance leading to under performance or worse no performance by the employees.

Ineffective or retarded communications would lead to the employees becoming isolated from the Management and this then paving the way for conflict and crisis. As the Managers would find it increasingly difficult to communicate with their ideas, circumstances as well as demands cogently as well as cohesively, it would become increasingly irksome as well as difficult for the employees to continue or perform better at their jobs.

A FEW POINTERS FOR EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION AT WORKPLACE:

• BETTER PERFORMANCE BY THE TEAM:
If the leader is able to perform better and is both cogent as well as cohesive in his communication, then the team would be able to analyze as well as assess what is expected of them to do and how best to reach there more faster and with a little more clarity of thought and action.

• INCREASES THE PERFORMANCE LEVELS
Effective communications augment the process of better performance levels, enhancing client as well as customer loyalty thereby increasing the revenues as well as the client support and base for the organization. This clarity of communication between the different levels of hierarchies fosters the attainment of the short term as well as the vision, mission as well as the goals of the organization.

• Communication style as well as the channels has to be both positive, effective apart from being encouraging.
The channels of communications or the hierarchies of communications have to be straight, circumspect as well as transparent so that the immediate hierarchy to resolve the outstanding issues and turn the problems to solutions.

• Any urgent problems of the company should be communicated to both the staff as well as the managers as everyone is involved in the process of decision making or giving their opinions. This process would also make the employees appreciate the simple fact that the employee’s opinions are paid heed to by the Management and that they have a say in the decision making process.

• Organizations must encourage effective communications at all times and at all levels of hierarchy. This would foster and make the employees understand as well as appreciate the need, role as well as the importance of communication especially in the business contexts.

• Any communication is a two way process. Transparency would only be made possible when employees are encouraged to ask questions as well as participate in the problem resolving the problem solving process asking questions and suggesting ideas to resolve issues.

• Effective Business Communications help companies in increasing their productivity and thereby avoiding delays and leads to successful business practices.

CONCLUSION

Life is all about communicating and communication. This could be made possible in business environments only through articulation, free speech and a hierarchy that is welcoming of accepting both ideas as well as suggestions from the employees and one that encourages a pro-active participation between both the employees as well as the Managers to facilitate a faster business growth and an ever increasing and expanding client base that would fetch the organizations both revenues as well as reputation.

5 Ways to Tell If a Business Communication Degree Is Right for You

From the outside looking in, a career in business seems like the perfect fit for many people. Business might be your ideal career, but it is important to remember that fancy suits, business lunches at the latest restaurants and important meetings aren’t the only aspects of working in the business field. Business is a great career choice, but before signing up for a business communication degree, it is important to determine if the degree will help you to meet your career goals.

Do You Love Working With Others?
A business communication degree will prepare you for a variety of positions in the business field. This degree is an ideal choice for those looking to work in public relations, advertising or marketing. These careers often require working closely with a team. A strong desire to work with others and good communication skills will prove helpful.

Do You Have Strong Communication Skills?
A business communication degree will prepare you for a career in communication, so you had better like communicating. A variety of different communication skills will be important. You may need to utilize multiple mediums to reach your intended audience. Prepare for this degree by learning to effectively communicate in person, over the phone, via email, on social media platforms and more.

Do You Enjoy Meeting Deadlines and Working on a Schedule?
Many of the careers that you can obtain with a business communication degree will require long hours and meeting tight deadlines. A career in public relations might require you to work late into the night to overcome public perception problems and to meet deadlines as you advertise and promote products and services. This degree may lend itself to working from home or telecommuting, but may also require you to work evenings, weekends and long hours occasionally. Deadlines are also critical and must be met with exactness.

Are You Passionate About New Media and Technology?
The way that we communicate is constantly changing. The internet has opened a variety of new communication mediums. With a business communication degree you will be able to use social media, blogs, online forums and other communication platforms to spread a message. If you are passionate about the internet and want to have a career that centers around communicating with technology, this degree might be just what you are looking for.

Do You Want to Spread a Message and Build an Image?
Working in business communication is a great way to promote products, services and people that you believe in. You will have the opportunity to share information with others and to create an image for companies or products. This career field might be right for you if you love to find new products and share your finds with others. Remember it is important to choose a company that you believe in since you will spend a great deal of time promoting and communicating with others.

If you love people, technology and communication, you might enjoy getting a degree in business communication. Answer these questions and see if this career is a good fit for your lifestyle.

Tips to Provide Email Support Successfully

Email support is an important element that should be had by companies as a part of their great services. It will help the company show that they have awesome support team and can achieve the modest advantage. If you are in an analysis about how to provide the support successfully to the customers, some tips below may help you much.

Start from Employing People who Understand Technology and Smart

Many companies get great success in bringing in peoples who have both smartness and skills. Their success specially means that they understand the tools complexities more quickly. They can speak well to the marketer customers as well as the developer customers. Besides, the people also can communicate well with the engineering team of the company to. Such goodness will certainly bring advantages for the customers of the companies. The customers can get quick solutions for their problems and escalations. The customers will also understand the explanations easily.

Make the Customers Find Their Solutions Easily

The support team in the company should work with the product team well by using the email support as natural as possible. They also should make documentation in details, knowledge base in comprehensive basis, helpful tools, blog posts as well as videos. It will make the customers to find the answers more conveniently and quickly through the email replies rather than when they ask someone for help. However, the company also still needs to provide customer service in 24/7 basis for the customers asking for help.

Focus to Give Meaningful Responses

The most important point to have about customer service is pay attention well to the response time. Keep in mind that the customers will happy when they can get the answers for their questions more quickly. You should be commit to this. The center of the support workflow should be on the quick delivery and also meaningful responses. It means that auto replies are weak and meaningless because sometimes it doesn’t help the customers’ issues at all.

Enable Your Team to Do All Things Right

To make the email support of your company always reliable, you should make sure that the support staff have tools and power to make decisions required to make all things right. It will be so helpful because the customers can get the solutions more quickly. In this way, the company’s team will get job satisfaction in higher level, being in control, and also having great power to give great customer support.

Three Critical Need Areas for Business Communication Improvement

Whether it is business communication or personal communication, communication is all around us.

But what is communication? Do we really know? Do we realize how important it is and how much of a factor it is in making our personal or business lives succeed or fail?

Experts tell us that many of the inmates in prisons are there because of a lack of communication skills issues. We are also told that eighty percent of the workers in our nations are unhappy in their job because of this lack of skills issues as well.

Here’s what communication is:

“the act of transmitting. A giving or exchanging of information, signals, or messages by talk, gestures, writing, etc. To make known. To give information, messages. To have a systematic and meaningful relationship. A system for sending and receiving messages as by telephone, telegraph, radio, etc… A system as of routes for moving one place to another. The art of expressing ideas, esp. in speech and writing. The science of transmitting information, esp. in symbol.” (Websters New World Dictionary).

Thus, communication is a system for sending and receiving messages.

We send and receive messages all day long, in our personal and business lives. But, we don’t know how to do it properly and we mess up enough daily to affect the outcome of society.

In business, so much of the results depends on our ability to communicate — people to people, department to department, sales to accounting, production to processes, marketing to finance, company to customers, etc.

From my observations, in most cases, the biggest need for improvement in business is found in the following three areas — in that order:

1. Organization

2. Communication

3. Training

Communication cannot be implemented on top of disorganization. Training cannot be implemented on top of non-communication. And, organization cannot be implemented without the effective communication of trained people.

For years, we’ve seen seminars and training on this subject become more and more popular, yet we still want more of them. We especially want those that offer something new that will help us to improve our business communication.

But we still have problems communicating. Why? It is because of the missing link. Then what is this missing link?

The missing link is the “contextual part” of all communication.

So, to pick up from our three critical need areas listed above, “contextual” communication is the bridge that connects and sustains organization, communication and training.

What is the difference between communication and contextual communication? Communication is still communication but contextual communication is communication within the “context” as it is described here:

Context: “the parts of a sentence, paragraph, discourse, etc. immediately next to or surrounding a specified word or passage and determining its exact meaning (to quote a remark out of context). The whole situation, background, or environment relevant to a particular event, personality, creation, etc. Contextual: of, depending on, or belonging to the context. (The New World Dictionary).

The problem is that we communicate without an awareness of this “contextual” parts of our daily business communication as well as personal communication.

So put these two descriptions of “communication and context” together and you have the recipe for better and improved business communication in the three critical areas of needs in business communication: organization, communication and training.

AMP vs Responsive Web Design

In this day and age, where technology has become so advancedmore than 81% of world population who own handheld devices rely heavily on their mobile phones. Wherever you go, you can easily find people with their eyes fixed on the screens. They do everything, from browsing for a much needed information to online shopping, with their phones – studies done by Google even found the fact that there are more people using its search engine service from mobile phones than from the desktops. But as a mobile phone user, we all have encountered the same problem – we browse and find a few links on Google search results that we want to check out, yet when we tap on it the screen turns white with a few gaps of branding colors where texts are supposed to be. It’s as if our phones cannot show the text at all. More often than not this issue is due to a terrible UX and the fact that web pages these days have become more comple. With various widgets, tracking and advertisements, average web page is now heavier than it used to be which translates to latency when we try to open the web page through our mobile phones – the result is the blank page we so despise.

AMP project to counter the issues

The fact that mobile web can be so slow inspires Google to release an initiative in the form of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project which aims to improve performance and speed on mobile pages. Not only is AMP incredibly fast, it’s also extremely flexible. The speed is a result of pages that are served and cache’d by Google’s own CDN – which makes it possible for you to load a page as fast as, or even faster than, RWD on desktop. But what is the differences between AMP and responsive design, and what does this new project mean to RWD?

AMP vs RWD

Accelerated mobile pages, in this case both AMP and responsive design (also known as Responsive Web Design or RWD), have similar basic building blocks. The difference is RWD allows for more optimal interaction and navigation which translates to better viewing as it doesn’t require scrolling and resizing – layouts can automatically shrink and adapt to small mobile screens. However, this doesn’t affect the speed at all. In terms of speed, AMP cannot be beat. But due to AMP’s no-thrill pages, the layout may look outdated – which makes many remain in favor for RWD.