I admit it, I’m a closet trekkie, in fact I like anything science fiction related .. as long it’s not too gory. Remember “Star Trek: The Next Generation” from the late 80s? Like the decade itself, “Next Generation” was an Utopian view of a possible future, where Mankind had solved hunger and other current global issues. I think I have seen most of the episodes, and one thing I noted was the communications between the characters.
For example, the Enterprise is facing certain destruction and Capt. Piccard contacts Geordi, the chief engineer of the ship and tells him he has 30 seconds to put in place some technical wizardry to save the ship. And Geordi says “acknowledged”. Not “I think it is possible, Captain” or “Yes” or even “Why”? Just that he understood the communication. There is a certain syntax in how the Enterprise team communicates with each other that facilitates smooth operations.
These days, much of our business communications are done over a variety of medium, and not face to face. Additionally, these days, short and sweet is preferred (140 characters or less), so getting your point across quickly is essential. In this global economy, you are often dealing with people who do not speak English as a first language so an ability to clearly communicate will help you have Enterprise’s smooth operations in your own business.
Here are just a few tips, I mostly focus on emails but some these can be applied to blogs, blog comments, social media and yes, even phone conversations.
Don’t write a book Long paragraphs in emails that ramble from point to point will not get you clear responses. And I have found that other cultures will just ignore them rather than asking questions to try and understand, possibly because they don’t want to come across as not intelligent.
Use white space People scan, rather than read every word, when they read online, so break up your paragraphs – especially if there are multiple points or concepts. 4 to 5 sentences per paragraph is a good rule of thumb. Use sub headings, bolding, stars and other attention getting formats (used judiciously they can be quite effective, but don’t go overboard!) I’m not afraid to have a sentence stand off by itself to make it stronger … although I have been dinged by reviewers for that.
Set some context Even though it may seem repetitive, set some context up front to remind the person about the goal on what you want to accomplish. Ie. “This email outreach is for the September 24th event I’m planning. ” Many people work on multiple things at once, a reminder of the project helps.
Avoid open ended questions Offering a choice of options can be much more effective than “What do you think we should do?” especially if you are the service provider and it is your area of knowledge. If you respond with a question to a request .. it might help to explain why are you are asking the question.
Agreed For IM conversations and email threads, I’ve found this single word quite handy as a quick way to signify that you agree with the point. This lets the people know they don’t have to keep convincing you of their opinion. I’ve also used “Acknowledged” as well, as in “Acknowledged .. will review this afternoon”.
Choose the right media As the kids know, email can be slow, if you are finding that you are getting into a lot of back and forth over email or the communication just doesn’t seem to be gelling, pick up the phone or get on an IM chat. There have been people I have worked with where I avoided email with them, it was most effective to talk to them on the phone.
Remember what your English teacher taught you Avoid long, run on sentences, use a spell checker, use proper grammar.
Know your audience Email can be used for formal communications, so keep the Internet lingo (ie. LOL) to minimum in these situations. My son tells me that I’m “old school” for spelling out most things in chats, tweets & texts (for example: I use “you” rather than “u”), but to be honest, I do this so I don’t have to think about whether it is appropriate or not.
These are just some tips to communicating effectively online, comments welcome!
Kathy Alice Brown is a traffic and conversion expert specializing in SEO, Copywriting and Facebook Ad Campaigns. In her spare time she loves to get outside.