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Bad Email Contest Results

Email & Voice Mail

Thanks to all of you who responded to the Bad Email Contest.  There were some terrific rewrites, but I should remind many of our readers that the passive voice should not be used (stet). Before I announce the winners, let’s review the email and address some of the main blunders:

Subject: Hi Peter!

@Peter- our Sales Department reached out about scheduling a high-level during the November timeframe on premise. Attached is a questionnaire about potential topics which is proprietary in nature.  Please action and advise and don’t hesitate to reach out to Sam and I.

Best Regards,


The subject line:  I’m a friendly guy, but “Hi Peter!” doesn’t tell me what I need to know or do.

@Peter: Not everyone has seen this Twitter salutation and many who have think it’s too informal and kind of bizarre for an email.  Save it for Twitter only.

reach out: This phrase has become viral in some organizations.  I’d save “reach out” for emergencies (e.g., “Please reach out to your neighbors the next time you feel a pang of loss for your dear departed ferret, Shep.”

high-level:  You can interpret this anyway you want, and that’s the problem.  If you mean to refer to a senior staff meeting just say so.

timeframe:  Way too redundant; “November” itself is a timeframe.

on premise: Even though the person means “in our office,” which is more specific anyway, I’ve seen people use this phrase when they really mean “on premises.”

which:  “Which” is always preceded by a comma when it introduces a non-restrictive clause and should always be next to what it modifies, which in this case is “questionnaire” not “topics.”

proprietary in nature:  As opposed to in captivity?

action:  Is not nor will it ever be a verb.  Ever.

advise:  Also viral in organizations, but it is very unspecific.  Advise about what?  Whether I should take an umbrella?

to Sam and I:  Review your notes from elementary school. “I” never comes after a preposition.

Best Regards:  Only capitalize the first letter of the first word of your close.


1. The only caveat on the winning entry–there’s no due date mentioned in the subject or email body:

Subject: Potential Topics for Nov Sales Meeting

Hi, Peter,

Sales would like to schedule a strategy meeting here in the office in November. Attached is a confidential list of potential topics for your review. If you have anything to add, don’t hesitate to send it to Sam and me.

Best regards,


2.  I hate potty humor, but this is one of the lowest order:

Yo Peter, sales department is in the toilet. idea constipation of the highest order. Creatiive production needed ASAP. They are looking for some relief. Use discretion. They need to have movement by november.

Bad Email Contest

Email & Voice Mail

Sorry for the long absence, but I thought I’d return with a contest.  Below is an email containing several words and phrases that make me cringe.  Your challenge is to re-write the email so it’s clear and concise.  If you want to have more fun, you can also re-write the email so it’s even worse.  Click on the blog link to submit your posts.

I’ll announce the winners of the best and worst emails in my next blog entry along with my reasons for hating some of the things you see below. Stay tuned for a new video next week.  Good luck!

Subject: Hi Peter!

@Peter- our Sales Department reached out about scheduling a high-level during the November timeframe on premise. Attached is a questionnaire about potential topics which is proprietary in nature.  Please action and advise and don’t hesitate to reach out to Sam and I.

Best Regards,


Can we talk it through?

Interpersonal Relations

Some people tolerate conflict better than others. I personally don’t like it. I’m happiest when I can talk through tension and misunderstanding and hear the other person’s point of view, and try to put language to my own. But getting to that moment isn’t easy. Both people need to have an interest in reaching understanding and resolution. Feelings of anger and hurt feelings can incline us to retaliate. Retaliation propels the cycle of anger and hurt feelings.
My brother often says “at the end of the day, Jo, you have to look at the man in the mirror.” This is where you ask yourself, and answer honestly: “Did I behave like an adult today? I can’t control anyone else, but did I conduct myself in a way that I am proud of, and can be at peace with?”
If you are honest about your thoughts and feelings, you can build on them and move through them.
So take a deep breath. Pick up the phone or knock on the office door. And think about how you can make things better.

Prepare prework for premeetings

Email & Voice Mail

Presently a preponderance of even preeminent people prattle on about “pre-approving a pre-plan and pre-notifying pre the pre-screen.” This presumably pressingly prevalent and predominant preprogramming is preposterous.

A preferable precedent is to prevent and preempt them from “pre-announcing” with a “pre-read” to get “pre-buy-in.” It isn’t pretty.

Can this be prevented? Precisely how prescriptive I can be is a predicament. Be prewarned: I can’t pretend not to be prejudiced, yet don’t want to prejudge or be pretentious. Predictably my precept and premise presuppose:

1. preference for precision
2. preview prerequisite
3. precipitous loss of prewords

Presto! You’ve prepared an unprecedented presentation.

What do you really want?- define your communication objective

Presentations Skills

Before you enter into any kind of communication exchange—be it an interview, a meeting, a presentation, a negotiation, a conversation, or anything else—figure out what it is that you really want to happen.  A lot of times, people fall short in figuring out an ultimate goal, and instead they identify a short-term and self-focused goal.  These short-term goals often take the form of “Here’s what I plan to say,” or “Here’s what I will never agree to.”  These short-term goals relate to personal feelings and performance and neglect the ultimate goals of how we may want to other person or persons to be affected by our communication with them.

When we think about how we want the other person or persons to be different, we move outside of little things we might say.  We begin to consider other elements of persuasion and influence that may help us to affect our audience.  Perhaps your ultimate goal is for the other person to feel that they can call upon you for help at any time.  That goal would not be accomplished by only saying “Call me any time:” many other statements and actions would have to go into an exchange for the other person to have the feeling that he or she can call at any time.

Think about what you want the relationship to look like and about all the different things that will help to get it there.  Don’t stop at the things you plan to say.  Communication is not just words.

“Sic semper tyrannis”– and being well-rounded isn’t a bad thing

Interpersonal Relations

A very senior-level hedge-fund manager client of mine was recently bemoaning the fact that his super-smart Gen Y employees have an incredible knowledge of what’s happening in the financial world–how markets will respond to oil prices, who’s investing in what, etc. — but have much less knowledge of what’s happening outside that microcosm. He was also discouraged to find out that his twenty-something business majors couldn’t identify the Brandenburg Concerti and couldn’t answer his on-the-spot history quiz: 1. What play was Lincoln attending the night he was shot? 2. What did John Wilkes Booth say as he leapt to the stage? 3. Who was Andrew Johnson’s vice-president after Lincoln’s assassination? (OK, maybe the quiz is a bit narrow focused, but you get his point.) more…

Move it on over – Identify Your Transferable Skills

Interviewing & Meetings

A colleague of mine is switching jobs.  Switching careers, actually.  While his resume impressively describes his prior work experience, he is rightly focusing on the concept of “transferable skills.”  For those of you who don’t know this buzz-phrase, those are skills or abilities that can be put to use in a variety of work situations. In other words, what is the broad concept skill that umbrellas your routine tasks. more…

What Do You Want From Me? How to Be More Specific

Email & Voice Mail

“I would welcome the opportunity to become acquainted.”
“Take a look at the attached when you get a chance.”
“Here are five potential alternative solutions.”
“FYI; please advise at your earliest convenience.”

You’ve probably read those sentences in emails, or may have written sentences like those yourself. They’re certainly grammatically correct and very polite. The problem is that a high-level, busy manager may read them and think: “OK, so what exactly are you asking me to do?” more…

Audience Analysis: Who are they?

Presentations Skills

Much of my success in speaking to groups happens because of the questions I ask before I even begin to prepare my talk.  Most speakers think to ask basic questions, but not beyond.

The basic questions to have answered fall under the “Who Are They?” category:  age range, gender mix, group size, educational background, experience, knowledge of the topic, and any particulars you may know about group values or perspectives.  Of course any information about individuals in the audience is critical. more…

Hey Wake Up, Audience!- How to keep an audience engaged during your presentation

Presentations Skills

I give a lot of presentations and try my best to make sure my audiences listen, learn something, and don’t pick up their BlackBerrys while I’m speaking. Now and then I find myself presenting to people who barely even smile to be polite. more…

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