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It’s the Little Mistakes that make a Big Difference

How many emails do you read a day? How many do you send out? Any sent under duress or in a rush? When you write with the clock ticking and the boss’ shadow “overhead,” it makes it difficult to not only write clearly and concretely, but also leaves
mistakes unnoticed.

This is an auto-response from a prospect:
“I will be out of the office on busniess beginning Tuesday, September 19th
with limited access to email and voicemail..”  (The double periods is also grammatically incorrect.)

I find this mistake due to the lack of understanding the language and good grammar. The pronoun’s wrong and there’s no such punctuation for the possessive; both glaring mistakes. To correct this: “…Les and my camping gear.”

“this is going to be a NICE addition to Les and I’s camping gear!”

You’ve made little mistakes and they indeed have made a big difference in the readers’ minds – not a positive difference, either.

Be diligent, be complete, and be correct in all of your writings.

Let me help with your writing: A day-long writing training class makes a world of difference; a positive difference on your bottom line, your time management, and your readers’ understanding.

Dee@DeeDukehart.com

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DeeTox Your Negativity

It’s a negative environment for the most part, don’t you agree?

What can you do today to add some positivity? It takes so little to give people a boost, to make them feel valued and to lighten their load. A smile always helps, a kind word can brighten someone’s day, a quick friendly outreach can make someone’s heart happy.

I received a text from a friend yesterday – not someone who usually reaches out – and it made my day. Just a few words to let me know he was thinking of me brought a huge smile to my face. An old friend I hadn’t heard from in years sent me a letter – a real letter! – and two newspaper articles last week and I immediately picked up the phone to reconnect with her and it was great. I sent a card to a friend who’s down and out, and she called, “Thank you! That was a special gift for me.”

A friend and I have this saying, “It’s the little things that count.”

Compliment a co-worker, friend, child, loved one, stranger – it makes no difference – you’re making a positive difference whether you realize it or not. You like being complimented, I’m certain; we all do. Instead of screaming at the robotic customer service rep from your cable provider or airline thank them for helping you. I’m guilty of this and I’m not proud of some of my antics. It’s not a trait I want to pass on, I want to DeeTox my negativity with some of these reps though my frustration level is through the roof.

If you can count to five, breathe and re-focus your attention on the good instead of the “bad,” you might help someone over their bad situation. I’m tired of the news, the violence, the politics and the bickering, I want to have a feel-good day.

It’s a new month: make November a compliment-people month. Those compliments are for you too, compliment yourself on a job well done, on small actions that no one else noticed, but you felt good about. When we feel good about ourselves our aura emotes that kindness.

Tonight, when you lay your head on your pillow, think of five aspects of your life that you’re grateful for: good health? a comfortable bed, nutrition, safely home, money in the bank?…the list goes on and on. What are you grateful for? How can you help our fellow weary travelers on this road with a “little thing” like a compliment, a hug, a smile, a card, a sense of humor, or even letting someone in your traffic lane.

DeeTox some of the negativity in the world with your kindnesses; you’ll be glad you did.

Happy Compliment-people month; enjoy.

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DeeTox Your PowerPoint

Technology’s sophistication boggles my mind. The array of pictures, videos, cartoons, q/a, interaction, etc. with PowerPoint or the like creates stimulation for the attendees in all meetings …and yet! I’ve been through some I-need-CPR-to-get-through-this presentations. Haven’t you?

DeeTox your PowerPoint with elimination. Brevity and clarity are paramount.

Eliminate the chaotic slide that looks more like a map of a major city, the adult brain can’t focus, can’t relate and definitely can’t  and won’t retain the information.

What does the presenter think you’ll gain or remember from this? How long would it take to explain this?

 

 

Visuals:

Even better! Use pictures instead of copy. Pictures explain even the most complex because they highlight your point and you – the presenter – can explain the intricacies of the picture/point. The more pictures you have the better your audience will relate and remember!

You’re talking about profit and loss. Instead of an “I know you can’t read this,” give the visual.

Could you use this picture to explain profit and loss? This picture will stay in the mind’s eye longer than a chart, I promise.

Creativity

Be creative. The audience will remember your points and you more readily when you DeeTox the too-busy slides, the graphs they can’t read, the full-of-copy slides, or the sixteen-bullet-point slide.

You’ve seen others that remind you of a city map and you can’t remember why the presenter put it or them on the screen.

Proof

DeeTox your slide deck with proofing. This example is one I couldn’t fathom went past the editors’, proofers’ or presenter’s eyes, but it did. This slide was presented at a webinar on writing by a well-known training company. I had to look several times to make certain I saw not one, but two of the same typos.

“For the last several weeks, we have been provided with three-shift coverage in the Processing Department. Company employees have covered the day shit and swing shift. A temporary employee has been covering the night shit. The third shift…ends this week.”

Proof!

DeeToxing your PowerPoint saves the participants’ time: time trying to make sense of too much information, time to digest the points, and time to understand the correlation between your words and the slides. Cleanse yourself of the need to put everything you know in each slide, focus on brevity, clarity, pictures, creativity and above all, proofing. Help your audience.

 

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DeeTox Your Opening and Your Closing of Your Presentation

During your presentation, you have an opportunity to educate, enlighten, engage and entertain your listeners. To capture their attention in the first few minutes, create an opening that entices their interests and helps them yearn for more. Talk about what matters to them, not to you. It’s all about your audience.

Have you heard a presenter tell a joke to “loosen up” the audience and it falls f-l-a-t? As I mentioned in my previous blog, humor is fabulous if you have the right timing and body language. I heard a presenter tell a 20-year-old joke, or close! Really, and you want the audience to stay with you? The internet is your friend for story lines and ideas, but the jokes get around the world in seconds: be careful.

Your opening sets the stage – so to speak – and the tone of your presentation. DeeTox yourself of long, drawn out openings that say nothing about your topic or gets rolled eyes from the audience. You have approximately 10-15 seconds to captures your audience’s attention; your opening is crucial.

A few openings:
 A story
 A rhetorical question
 A germane quotation
 A current event
 A startling statistic

The best speeches open with one of the five above and close with it as well. If you tell a story, finish it with a poignant point and substantiate the reason for it in your closing. Same with any of them: your opening and closing are bookends!

Your listeners want to feel something; it’s the visceral part of your presentation that stays with them, not all the data, statistics or chaotic PowerPoint slides. I heard this line in a movie: “Too many facts and not enough flavor loses their interest.” How true. DeeTox the opening humdrum and ignite their hearts and minds instead.

Organize your points to help create momentum and a road map with the magical three points:
1. Problem, cause, solution
2. Past, present, future,
3. Profit, loss, gain
4. Strengths, weaknesses, growths
5. Pros, cons, next steps

These are a few organizational suggestions that help you write a powerful speech: think of stories that will complement the points, cite specifics, give examples, and weave your theme in an engaging and well-thought-out way.

DeeTox a blah closing, “Well, that’s it.” “Thanks.” “I’m done. Any questions?” I know you’ve heard a few. Let the audience know you’re about to end, “Before I close, I have five minutes for questions.” The “before I close” is paramount. Never end on q/a. You want to have the final words: your audiences remember best what they hear last!

In your closing refer to your opening story, quotation, etc., bring it full circle and the punch for its purpose. Give your audiences something to hold on to: a call-to-action, a promise, a challenge, whatever it takes for them to remember your speech and you.

It’s how you make them feel, not how much knowledge you have. It’s all about the audience.

Knock ‘em alive with a professional and powerful opening, body and closing.

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DeeTox Your Presentations

I listened to a C-level presenter at a business luncheon six months ago. The first few minutes were clean and clear and then…. The fillers started with a vengeance: the next half an hour I counted over 45 “ums,” “you know’s,” and “a’s.” I couldn’t pay attention to the message…! Yes, I may listen with a different ear because it’s my profession, and still.

When you DeeTox your speeches of these killer fillers, your listeners hear a smoother and more comprehensive message.

To DeeTox from fillers, pause instead. Your listeners relish the time to consider what you’ve offered and to visualize themselves taking your advice. Add pauses, stories, humor and some statistics.

As a listener what do you remember about the last speech you heard? Was it a statistic that stood out? Was it a salient point? A story? An anecdote? Or nothing? Usually it’s the stories and the humor.

You pitch proposals and ideas to prospects; present annual or quarterly reports to boards; updates to current clients, and co-workers; new policy and procedures or several cheerleading speeches to your employees; and other myriad presentations to audiences.   Some of these topics may seem boring, but no topic is boring… it’s the speaker who’s boring.

To DeeTox technical, financial or legal information that might be boring, mix up the statistics and the mundane with stories and humor. That’s right, even the most in-depth technical, financial, legal or institutional reports can have stories, testimonials, word pictures, and even humor…if you want presentations that reflect your professionalism and add pizzazz.

If you think your audience doesn’t want and need story and humor added to statistical information, then you haven’t been an audience member.

Four DeeToxes:

  1. Pause. Give your listeners time to take in your points. Rid yourself of the fillers: um, ah, you know, so, etc.
  2. Tell stories. Human interest stories and personal experiences lend credibility and portray you in a more “like-us” image.
  3. Add humor. Not everyone is funny, and telling jokes isn’t the way to guide you down that path. Humor comes from your stories, your non-verbal language, and voice inflections.
  4. Educate your listeners. Your listeners might have to be in your audience or they’ve chosen to attend, either way, give them valid and valuable reasons to share in the experience. They’re giving you their time.

It’s about the audience, it’s not about you. Give them added value and tools to take away; they’ll remember and appreciate you.

 

 

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DeeTox Your Proofing

Your writing is a reflection on your attention to detail, on what’s important to your readers, and more importantly, on how you care.

A client of mine needs a new tech support person; the resumes flooded in. More than 100 individuals applied and only seven made it to the phone interview stage. Why? Because only those seven individuals had 100-percent-error-free cover letters.

Examples from the applicants who didn’t get past the first step:
1. My skills very across a wide field….

2. Iam organized, punctual, oriented detail, and love to learn new skills. Thanks hope to hear from you.

3. I am a very fast leaner.

4. Im fast learner, and I am certified as computer technician through my schooling (No punctuation.)

These individuals want a job and have minimal writing skills – or at least that’s what comes across to the reader. Sad.

From a FB page: This is the most egregious I’ve seen. This person is an intelligent and articulate individual – I suppose. What happens to someone’s brain when s/he starts to write?

5. My sister’s and I’s exercise walk this morning….

What do your proofing skills say about you? Take the time to read and reread your documents – emails, blogs, FB entries, LinkedIn entries.

DeeTox Your Proofing with a few of these tools:
1. Read your documents aloud.
2. Enlarge the type to 18 or 20 to see more mistakes.
3. Have two people – one who isn’t in your department – read it before you send it. The person not in your department may have questions that you assume your readers know the answers to and s/he will bring that into focus.
4. Print out and over the document with a piece of paper and read from the bottom up – you’re not concerned about the content, just the typos – scan for mistakes.
5. Before you press the “send” button save your document; get a cup of coffee, read a different file, or make a phone call, anything that takes your mind off the document. This gives your brain a new perspective when you re-read and proof.
When you read the document immediately you think you wrote it correctly. Be patient.
6. Spellcheck is good and it’s not infallible. (Your/you’re; too/to/two; its/it’s, etc.)

What do you think of the writer when you notice typos, poor grammar and spelling?  Your writing says more about you than you may realize.

Proof!

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DeeTox Your Unclear or Weak Syntax

Your readers want and need clarity and comprehension, as do you when you receive any documents. Though time sometimes creates havoc when you “have” to get something to a client, prospect, manager, teammate, printer, or someone else “now,” take a few more minutes to read your sentences to make certain they not only make sense, but also are concrete for your reader.

Use bullets when you want your readers to be able to scan your information when you write more than 200 words. Graphics and charts add visuals and headers add guideposts.

False Subjects

Rid your writing of expletives or false subjects:
* There is
*There are
* There were
* It is
* It was
Examples:
It was
the last proposal that caught their eye.
Better: The last proposal caught their eye.
The reader knows the subject and the sentence is shorter and more direct.

There were 1000’s of people in need of accommodations when the blizzard hit.
Better: Thousands of people needed hotel rooms when the blizzard hit.

There are four executives who think the company needs a new direction.
Better: Four executives think the company….

Qualifiers
Make every word count. If you were to pay me $10 for every word wouldn’t you want to pare down your sentences, focus on the meaning of the document and get to the point? Eliminate all the words you don’t need:
Very, most, many, substantial, big, a few, etc.

DeeTox your syntax with bold statements and specificity. Instead of, “We had a very good year and a big boost in profits.” What does “very good” look like to your reader? The same for “big boost.”

Write specifically: “2016 saw our client list expand from 36 to 44 and our profits grow by 8 percent. We exceeded expectations by 4 percent.” Now your readers can understand and “see” very good and big boost.

Strong Verbs
Each of you has approximately 50,000+ vocabulary words. I know you’re thinking, “No way.” It’s true! Now, how many do you use? Maybe 3,500.

Expand your “normal” vocabulary to create concrete images for your readers and to show action. Strong verbs describe the action you want the reader to take, to understand and to visualize.

When possible replace your “to be” or auxiliary verbs: is, had, has, was, were, etc. to strong verbs. Yes, auxiliary verbs are necessary, and you overuse them.

The traffic was awful this morning. Or The bumper-to-bumper traffic frustrated me and created a 40-minute delay this morning.

DeeTox your weak or cloudy syntax with three or four tweaks to your sentences and you’ll see better results: more readership, more understanding, and more responses.

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