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Business Communications

OK, so 2009 has slipped hastily out the side door. It left not with a bang nor a whimper, but more with a thud -- to the groin area. Last Friday morning, 2010 thrust itself, hat in hand, like an unwelcome relative, on our doorsteps. We are obligated to feed and care for it. With the recession (a soon-to-be clichéd excuse) and all, let us try to communicate differently this year. I have three tips, that I give to you as I hand them to myself.

The art of the follow-up: (Thanks, Tyrell). Minutes to the dawning of the New Year, I sat in the Mamby Park Baptist church listening to our very favourite Rev Hall reminiscing about the past year and speaking about the hopes of 2010 and the need for personal and other change in lives. It is amazing how many resolutions are made at the midnight hour during Watch Night services and how easily they are broken with a hop, skip and a jump into the New Year because of a lack of follow-up. Managers, our supervisors, businessmen, civic leaders, CEOs, politicians and the rest of us speak of the things we will do and the things we ought to do, yet we never follow through. Talk is not cheap these days but it is certainly easy. It is perhaps the easiest form of communication. It involves the automatic movement of the lips, teeth and tongue to form words.

Many people love to talk, but corner them about actually putting into action what they say they would do -- and they stare at you like deer caught in the headlights. How many meetings have you attended where Tom Stokes waxed lyrical about plans to move the productivity of his department from a low point F to a high A? In January he resolved to communicate more with his subordinates, ensure that the proper industry research was done so that the business would stay on the competitive edge. Check back six weeks down the line to see what he actually accomplished. He will have excuses (for sure) but did he actually follow through on the specific task he assigned himself? I can bet my bottom dollar he did not. He will, however, wait until the next meeting to draw attention away from himself and those responsibilities on which he should have followed up. In my line of work I have met some of the most artful dodgers who have ever walked the corridors of an office. They talk a good talk. But don't ask them to lift a finger. Effective communication is not only about talk -- it is about speaking things into action by doing them. There is an art to the follow-up as the Nike brand urges us -- 'just do it'.

Let's meet face-to-face: This is a year of making more of these connections. Some formerly huge markets have shrunk because of trend changes, decreased spending power and other economic factors. Customers are no longer coming in droves, unloading wads of cash for your over-priced services and goods. Businesses will have to work harder to stay in touch with the clients they have and to widen the net. How will this be done? If you are expanding internationally, travelling via air has become a real pain, especially since the Nigerian man allegedly tried to blow up an aeroplane flying to Detroit on Christmas day. As an added security layer, I understand that airlines will be required to offer pat-down 'service' to red-flagged countries prior to their residents boarding international flights.

If you have to meet with clients locally, the cost of gas has increased so you cannot drive around willy-nilly. What to do? Despite the strides that technology has made in making the world one big marketplace, you never really make that true connection until you meet the person face to face. We may make that initial business bond over the telephone but the deal breaker for me in continuing to do business is meeting with my business provider. Face-to-face is one most effective way of communicating with people. It is easy to make promises on-line, via email and web-conferences or over the phone. But let's get together and talk and let me see you eye-to-eye. Businesses will have to hold on stronger to their clients via this face-to-face medium. It is a fail-safe.

Video-lights, camera and action: We all like to see ourselves on television or on some kind of screen that will permanently etch (or scorch) our likeness into the minds of an audience. Businesses should make greater use of this medium to sell themselves. People respond to visual images. I do not necessarily mean only television adverts, but some short, interesting video clips on your websites. And do I not mean video clips that will ultimately glorify the CEO and his management minions. I am speaking about brief and useful Q&A or interesting one-on-one sessions that add to the interest on your websites. Make them come back for more. This is the age of using the visual to sell yourself. Check out Flipvideo camcorder. Tell them I told you so. Have a great year!


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