Test Your Email Best Practices

Here’s a quick True-False quiz to test your email skills:

  1. Three- to four-word subject lines are best.
  2. Subject lines should be changed when topics change.
  3. Including six names in the “To:” box is acceptable.
  4. All caps should never be used in email messages.
  5. The best length for emails is between 50-125 words.

EXTRA CREDIT: The best time to send emails is 4:00 pm.

Click here to see the answers. Hint: scroll to the bottom of the page.

Five Ways to Make a Poor First Impression

“You never have a second chance to make a first impression.” You’ve heard that for years, but there is a lot of truth in it. We size up others quickly because it helps us make sense of our world and feel safe in it. Research conducted by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that people judge competence, likeability, trustworthiness, and attractiveness in 250 milliseconds based simply on what they see before them! And good or bad, we tend to cling to our initial judgments of others and view them through that lens for a very long time. So try to always put your best foot forward!

Here’s what not to do:

Arrive Underdressed

It’s hard to lose points by overdressing, but you certainly can by underdressing. As Hamlet said, “The apparel oft proclaims the man.” So, what is yours proclaiming today? How you dress tells the world just what you think about yourself and those you’re with. Why not convey intelligence, respect, and confidence? Do your homework, figure out the dress code, then kick it up a half a notch and choose accordingly. You can always lose the jacket, tie, or extra accessories once you scope out the room, but it’s hard to make those things materialize out of thin air.

Focus on Your Phone

You can only have one quality conversation at a time, so if you want to make a positive first impression, you’re going to have to put the phone away. On silent. Or better yet, off. You never want people to think that anything is more important than the conversation you’re having with them right here and right now. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself and move away to talk in private. Then return and hope they haven’t moved on to someone more present and personable.

Use Negative Body Language

Our body language is another element that conveys how interested we are in others. Eyes that constantly dart around or focus on the floor, slumped postures, crossed arms, and grim expressions tell others you’re probably bored, angry, depressed, or all of the above. Face people heart-to-heart, make attentive eye contact, smile occasionally, and others will find you fascinating because you found them interesting.

Shake Hands Like a Limp Fish

…or a wet noodle or a bonecrusher or fingers-only princess style. Yikes! Your handshake sets the tone for whatever follows. Don’t gross them out with a handshake that creates questions instead of confidence. Offer your entire hand, move in until web meets web, grasp firmly, shake lightly (no pumping!), then release. Add to that a smile and eye contact, along with something pleasant like, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.”

Having Nothing to Offer

Here’s another reason to do some homework ahead of time. Research the people you’ll be meeting as well as their companies, industries, and current issues. Prep some questions and insights you could share that would demonstrate your interest in them and knowledge of what’s going on in their worlds. But you can’t be all business either. Prep for lighter conversations, too. Books, movies, sports, theater, food, museums, and travel are all fun topics for small talk, so be ready to share your experiences and recommendations.

Need feedback on the impressions you’re making on others? We have training and coaching programs that can help! www.theedgeexecutivecoaching.com

© 2017 Jill Bremer


Dining Etiquette: When to Talk Business

Americans love to combine food and business. Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, cocktails or dinner, we enjoy merging these two activities and eating while we also brainstorm ideas, finalize deals, nurture relationships, even make hiring and promotion decisions. Here are some tips for handling the business conversation properly.

If you’re meeting over breakfast, you’ll need to get down to business quickly, perhaps even before you’re seated at the table. People usually can’t linger over a long breakfast, so get the discussion going while you’re standing at the hostess stand or even on the way to the restaurant.

When meeting over lunch, it’s best to wait until all parties have ordered. People often need more time to read through this menu (compared to breakfast), so don’t interrupt their decision-making process with business talk. Otherwise, the orders will be delayed and lunch will run late for everyone.

When you’re combining business with dinner, it’s proper to wait until the dessert/coffee course before bringing up the issues at hand. In some cultures, it’s taboo to talk business at all over a meal. They use these settings purely for building and solidifying relationships, not to talk shop. But stateside, if you do want to talk business, wait until the final course. Of course, if your guests bring the subject up earlier, take the cue that it’s okay to talk now.

Final Tip: When you’re the host, be sure to choose restaurants that take reservations, so you can respect your guests’ time. 

© 2017 Jill Bremer

Build Your Visibility

Feeling a little invisible at work? Looking for ways to stand out and distinguish yourself from the crowd? It’s difficult to create a strong executive presence if no one knows who you are or what you do. Here are some strategies for building your visibility: 

Daily – 

Nurture your network by making one non-required contact each day. Make a call or send a note.

Weekly – 

For the required meetings you go to, ask what you can bring or how you can help, like taking the meeting minutes.

Find out if there are other meetings you can attend outside of your department. You’ll benefit from other perspectives and can build your business acumen and value to the organization.

Monthly – 

Attend events in your industry both large and small. You can reap different rewards from each.

Volunteer for your professional organizations and be more than a good volunteer, be great. Consider volunteering first for the membership committee. You get to know everyone and can serve as the master connector. 

Search out the associations your clients belong to and go to those meetings, too, to stay current on happenings in their industry.

Arrive early to any meeting, if you can. It’s a prime opportunity to introduce yourself to the board members and speaker. Volunteer to help them with setting up or with the registration table.

Quarterly – 

Get your name in print. Write for trade publications, op-ed pieces, client newsletters. 

Consider attending an event outside your industry. Be the only one there who does what you do!

Annually – 

Attend at least one conference in your field. Conferences provide valuable relationship-building opportunities and can bring you national and international visibility.

Do a presentation or panel discussion at the conference. Opportunities abound for those who can deliver a solid presentation. 

Additional Ideas – 

Volunteer for a special project or task force.

Chair a committee (and chair it well!)

Develop a diverse network of people, including people from all areas within your organization. Be the person who knows where to go to get answers.

Adapted from “It’s Your Move: Dealing Yourself the Best Cards in Life and Work,” by Cyndi Maxey and Jill Bremer.

Free Speech + Civility = A Good Combination

BusinessMeetingDebate061411iStock_0A big dose of civility is what America needs right now, especially when our freedom of speech is under as much fire as it is these days. A civil society encourages dialogue and creates an environment where people feel free to express their views and not be silenced because of them.

Incivility is rampant in our current political process, along with our workplaces, sporting arenas, and roadways, but I’m even more troubled with what I see happening on America’s college campuses. They used to be places where free speech was celebrated, where a diversity of ideas was welcomed, nurtured, shared, and debated. Protests and civil disobedience were not unusual occurrences where a big, messy marketplace of ideas was available to all. Yes, I realize they didn’t always end peacefully, but these voices weren’t shot down by dissenters before they even started. People were given the opportunity to learn and then make their own decisions.

Now, many universities are either being forced to change their policies or have jumped on that bandwagon willingly—cancelling speakers that might have a different worldview, silencing student groups, and turning free spaces into “safe spaces”. Many campuses now have “bias response teams” to investigate claims of students’ feelings being hurt. When did we develop such thin skins? When did we lose the ability to hear others’ opinions and not be personally violated? It’s been reported that at one Big 10 university, resident advisors are being pressured to coerce students into signing an overly-broad “civility pledge” which, when combined with their new “Inclusive Language Campaign”, can lead, in my opinion, to administrative overreach and senseless investigations. Please—do not tarnish the magnificent concept of civility by attaching it to something that borders on intimidation.

Wouldn’t it be better if we encouraged free speech and exposed students to all ideas and worldviews? Wouldn’t it be better if we taught the art of civility which teaches people how to listen well, ask insightful questions, seek to understand, and then ultimately respect the other person’s opinion—even when it’s different than their own? Wouldn’t it be better if we had the skills to handle a diversity of viewpoints and disagreements ourselves, instead of running off to administrations, HR, or the government to step in and regulate it?

I agree with John Marshall, Vice President of Student Services at Colorado Mesa University, who said, “We need to help challenge our students. You don’t have a right not to be uncomfortable. We don’t always need to create these ultra-sensitive responses. We want [students] to think critically and deal with each other with respect and civility.” And I applaud the recent event at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where professors and authors spoke up about the failure of college administrators to respect free speech. http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=7797

Civility is not about silencing other’s views or even successfully convincing them of yours. Civility has nothing to do with coercion, regulation, or pointing fingers. It is about encouraging a marketplace of ideas, where diversity of thought and worldviews is encouraged, and interactions and disagreements with others are handled with respect and grace.

If you need more civility in your workplace, please check out http://theedgeexecutivecoaching.com/training-workshops/civility-in-the-workplace/

© 2016 Jill Bremer

7 Reasons to Put Pen to Paper

thank youThe impact of a handwritten note is often overlooked in today’s “why-write-something-when-I-can-email-it” world. A note written promptly and sincerely is more impactful and appreciated than a phone call, email, or text. Yes, we have a lot of technology at our fingertips, but just because we can do something that way doesn’t mean we should

Handwritten notes and letters are a rarity, which makes them that much more meaningful and cherished by the recipient. When you take the time to write a note by hand, it shows the other person that you cared enough to pull out the stationery and choose your words without the conveniences of the grammar tool, spellchecker and auto-fill! Written notes are also permanent, which means they’re often saved by the recipient and even shared with others.

Before you begin, you’re going to need nice stationery. Business letterhead or a fold-over note card with the company logo on the front are fine to use for relationships that are just getting established. Once you have a closer working relationship with that colleague or client, you can switch to personal stationery.

Here are the 7 along with suggested reasons to send:

  1. Thank You – for the meal, opportunity, gift
  2. Letters of Congratulations – for reaching that work milestone, winning the election, getting married
  3. Good News – for the new job, being promoted, for their child’s accomplishment
  4. Complimenting Someone – for the great presentation, negotiation success, work performance
  5. To Consolidate Contact –you enjoyed meeting them at the conference, you’re looking forward to working together on the new project
  6. To Encourage – if they’ve come through a difficult time or crisis
  7. Condolence – for a death in their family

Do you really want your “thank you” email to be buried within the 300 they’ll receive that day? Your words will have real impact and you’ll stand out as someone with class and sophistication if you put pen to paper!

© Jill Bremer 2016