3 Little, Helpful Business Communication Tricks They Don't Teach You in College
When I was in college, I pledged to a co-ed business fraternity.
It was a strange and wonderful experience, rife with tradition, revelry, ego, and humilitation.
Leaders in my chapter taught me how to write a résumé, how to interview, how to buy a versatile pant suit, and how to roll down three flights of stairs in a sleeping bag.
But after graduation, there were still so many important soft skills that I just hadn't managed to pick up — either from interactions with my brothers or from my courses in business school.
When I finally landed my first salaried gig, the Atlanta tech scene felt nothing like the corporate world I'd imagined that I'd been preparing to encounter.
When it comes to soft skills, I've been learning on the job for years. And, there are still lots of important soft skills that I just haven't nailed yet — like, for example, the ability to keep my composure when someone brings up a topic that excites me. (Unfortunately, my natural expression of enthusiasm usually involves animated expressions and curse words.)
Still, there are a few things that I've picked up that I think are worth sharing.
Here are three little, helpful business communication tricks that I wish someone had taught me in college:
How to Introduce Two People via Email
Last year, at a Growth Marketing Conference in Atlanta, I heard a woman named Heather Dopson say something that stuck with me:
"When you become the human API between people making human-to-human connections, you provide value."
It's true! One way to give back in your community is to make connections. And, one of the easiest ways to make connections is to introduce people to eachother via email.
First, identify two individuals who would be better off if they were connected to eachother.
Then, talk to (or chat or text or email) each individual directly to:
- Ask them whether they'd be open to an email introduction to the other person (make sure they say 'yes'!),
- Provide some context for how you think the connection will be beneficial, and
- Set expectations about next steps.
Sometimes one of the parties will have asked you directly for an introduction to the other; in that case, you really only need to directly communicate with the party who isn't aware of the other. Either way, don't skip this step! It's risky to hastily connect two strangers out of the blue! Be considerate, get consent, and make sure people know to look out for the intro email in their inboxes.
Lastly, send the email. A couple of years ago my former CEO wrote an email introduction for me, and I've been copying his straightforward template ever since. It looks like this:
TO: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
SUBJECT LINE: Han, meet Lando at Cloud City Co.
Writing to connect you with Lando. Lando's the Baron Administrator at the Cloud City, and he's a bonafide expert in smuggling. I think he might be able to help you avoid those Impirial entanglements you're concerned about.
I met Han at the Cantina last weekend. He's got a fast ship, and he's willing to help you with that gambling problem you have.
I'll let y'all both take it from here!
Then, if you're the person who has asked for the introduction, it's a nice courtesy to reply back quickly and move the person who connected you to BCC. That reply looks like this:
SUBJECT LINE: Han, meet Lando at Cloud City Co.
Thanks for the intro, Jabba! Moving you to BCC.
Glad to meet you, Lando.
Could we schedule a time to meet face-to-face at your place? Maybe next Thursday?
Looking forward to connecting soon.
That's it! It's a little contrived, but it works.
How to Put Together a Clear Google Calendar Invite
So, you wanna book a meeting, eh?
First, make sure that you've found a time that's open for everyone who needs to be there.
Then, add all of the people who should attend the meeting. (If you ever see me sitting alone in a big conference room by myself, there's a good chance it's because I've forgotten this step.)
Next, decide whether you need to meet face-to-face in a room, via a remote meeting, or with some remote/room hybrid. Make sure that the location is precise and clearly present in the invite. Pro-tip: if you're doing a remote meeting, you can put your custom remote meeting link in the Location field.
Name your meeting something short and meaningful.
Now! For the important part! Before you hit 'Save' to send the invite emails, enter a meeting description.
Use the description field to provide a short agenda and links to any resources that people will need to review ahead of the meeting.
If you fail to include a clear description, you'll probably get a bunch of random one-off questions, like, "What's this all about again?" or "Do I need to prepare anything ahead of our meeting today?"
Save yourself and your meeting mates. Don't skip the description field unless you're 100% sure everyone involved knows what the meeting is all about.
How to Confirm a Meeting with a Prospect or a Client
Turns out, getting stood up on a meeting is almost as heartbreaking as getting stood up on a date.
The good news is that you can take steps to diminish the likelihood that this will happen to you.
If you've organized a meeting (in person or remote) and if the meeting is important enough that you don't want to miss it or have to reschedule it — like, for example, a product demo or training call — do yourself a favor and take the extra step to confirm the meeting via email a couple of business hours ahead of the agreed upon time. If you're afraid that you might forget to confirm the meeting, you can put an event on your personal calendar to remind you to do it first thing that morning (or last thing the previous business day, if it's an early morning meeting.)
A great meeting confirmation email is upbeat and full of important details about how to connect. It gives the invited party one last chance to check their calendar, make sure the time zones match up, and/or cancel because something's come up.
Looking forward to seeing your droid haul this morning!
I'll meet you outside the Lars Family Moisture Farm on Tatooine at 10:00 AM ET today.
If you have any trouble finding our location, you can reach me at: 404-555-1234
In the wide world of web meetings, it's often that people run late or struggle to connect on remote meeting links. Sometimes people are just heads down in their work and need a little nudge reminder.
If you're present for a meeting and your other party is more than 5 minutes late, it's appropriate to send a quick follow-up to your confirmation email:
The Supreme Leader and I are on the conference call here: meet.google.com/first-order
Let me know if you have trouble connecting or if we need to reschedule.
In practice, these types of simple confirmation touch-points can help ensure that you don't spend large chunks of your time waiting for people to join web meetings that they weren't planning to attend.
The conventions of communication in business are constantly evolving, and it'll be interesting to see whether these habits hold up over time. Heck — there might be some folks who disagree with the suggestions I've shared as they stand!
If you're about to graduate into the world of business and you're freaking out because you have no clue what professionalism feels like, start paying attention to the little things. You can always imitate before you innovate.