Category Archives: Communication

Virtual Business: Take It Like a Man

Confident Business WomanExperience is a wonderful thing. Even a bad one will prepare you for the “next time” some situation or other arises. I have learned so much this year just by hearing about all of your experiences. It’s nice to have other strong business women to share with and relate to. I love girl talk, but we haven’t even once really talked about men! Sure, a husband or son gets mentioned every once in a while, but what can we learn from these seemingly simple creatures about business? ;)

Why is it that so many brilliantly capable women I love and work with seem to be living the same experiences over and over? We go through phases of racing into stress, and then crashing into the inevitable phase of fatigue. The longer the periods of stress equal the intensity of fatigue. Does this sound familiar? I can’t complain because this year has been wildly successful in so many ways, yet continues to be intensely stressful in others. I don’t think stress is so much different for men, but it seems like more of my girl friends are complaining of burn out on a regular basis. So we should talk about it.

Tasks men often seem do “better” than women:

  • Switch gears
  • (Don’t give me that “women are better multi-taskers than men”.) Your mind has probably gone 3 different directions just since starting this article. You’ve probably had to write down a reminder, refilled your cup, and looked at the clock twice. Right?  A guy would start delegating before he even tried to handle as many thoughts that are going on in your head right now. So, let’s face it, we need to try to learn how to separate some of our complex thoughts. That way, when one thing gives way, the rest doesn’t follow.

  • Toot their own horn
  • Maybe back in high school you weren’t supposed to brag on yourself because you’d be seen as conceited. “She’s so stuck on herself!” Right? In business, humility has a place. Save it for your anonymous charitable donations. It’s a bad idea to post somewhere that you didn’t love your latest press release or can’t believe how stupid you feel not knowing something. Enough with the personal put downs!

Self sabotaging tasks women seem to do more than men:

  • Apologize constantly
  • Whether it’s for inadequacies or absences, for some reason, we feel guilty about being less than Wonder Woman; and must make a mense with “I’m sorry” and over-compensation. I once worked with a girl who’d type up a page and a half (slight exaggeration… very slight) about why she was going to be gone and she was sorry about not being there for you in her auto response email. She was the sweetest girl you could meet, but seriously she made herself look bad because she did it. In fact it turned into an intra-office joke.

  • Take on everyone else’s problems
  • The truth is we could probably do so much more if we didn’t get offended by something someone said (that probably had nothing to do with us anyway), or if we weren’t concerned about our friend’s neighbor’s sister who just found out she has a tumor that might be cancerous. It’s true that there are disasters and bad memories that are going to invade our thoughts, but they are our thoughts and if we are going to get anything done we need to be in control of them. It’s ok to be sympathetic, but don’t live through the tragedies with everyone.

  • Over share
  • Some things are better left unsaid. It very well might be because some guys still live in the Stone Age and think “I can’t talk about my feelings. Men don’t do that.” I don’t know to many of my guy friends who are posting messages about how they “can’t take it anymore!” or “I can’t believe that %$!# just said blah blah blah to me, but…” on Facebook (Yeah, you know what I am talking about.) The people who share every stick and stone life throws at them? Sorry, but most of the time, it isn’t the men doing that. Think of it this way. You are giving the whole world info that could be used against you.

Ladies, make sure you have these two very important traits in check and in balance to succeed as a virtual business owner.

1. Confidence

(Yeah, I said it!) Thanks to Cover girl, coffee, and Botox we can fake clear skin, energy, and even hang on to some version of youth a little bit longer; but the hottest asset any woman (especially running her own business) can posses is nearly impossible to fake or live without and that is confidence.

Let’s get a man’s opinion.
Because he’s had a lot of experience working with (sometimes putting up with) quite the wide variety of virtual business people at New Marketing Labs, and he’s a man, I decided to ask Chris Brogan of what he thought about my gender confidence theory.

So, I asked him point-blank: “On average, do you think that men are more confident than women in the virtual business world?”

Chris responds: “I think men are more confident, period, for an unfortunate reason. Men are willing to say they can do something when in actuality, it’s a stretch. Women most often only say that they can do what they KNOW they can do, and what they’ve had experience doing (on the average). Thus, men are much more likely to take wild swings for weird possible new futures, where women tend to think they have to show capability/experience first.”

Think about it. I do think he missed that men seem to worry less about what people when think if something doesn’t work out. Many also do better about not dwelling on the details that didn’t go perfectly. This leads me to trait number 2.

2. Perfectionism

I have learned more and more over the past few years that I am more willing to turn in a paper late or not accept a project at all if I don’t think I have the time or resources to do it the way that I know it should be done. This is truly a wonderful trait to have. Ask any of my professors or clients! I try to remind myself that no one is as big a critic of my work as I am, and I don’t need to get a hundred percent on everything do I? Well, yes I do and that’s my style, but it’s also a sort of curse because I wonder if I’ve have missed out on some things that I could have done great.

We even teach our kids that no one is perfect all the time.
It’s like I told my daughter this weekend, “No one can be good all the time.” She looked at me puzzled. “Why not?” (As if I’d just completely derailed what I’d been teaching her whole life. :{ Scary.)

“Well, because eventually that person would just snap and go bad or get sick.” I replied.

“Well, then can someone be bad all the time and then snap to good?” she reasoned. (LOL! Yeah, kids…)

“No, because you need a healthy balance.” I told her.

The moral of that story?
If you don’t allow yourself enough slack, your goals will always be out of reach, and if you give yourself too much slack, then there probably was never a concrete goal there to reach for anyway.

Too Many Hands In The Pot!

As VA’s we have all sorts of clients. Some work for themselves and others may work for someone else.  Never the less, it is our job to support our clients in whatever capacity we have agreed upon. For the most part, we have a direct connection to our client and work closely with them.  We communicate on a consistent basis and if we are unsure of something, we either email or pick up the phone and ask!  Not such a bad thing, right?  Right…for the most part.

But what happens when you have a client who works for someone else and the project you were assigned to work on not only has your input, but your client’s input and his/her boss’s input as well?  This was the situation that I found myself in today.  I have an ongoing project that I have been working on for a client of mine and it was brought to my attention late last week that I wasn’t doing things exactly as I should be.  What??? I was following all instructions given to me and asked questions as they came up, just to make sure.  Somehow, that wasn’t enough.  Come to find out, my client was new to working with the other person and the lines of communication weren’t always clear.  Therefore, what was told to him was then told to me.  Sound familiar?  It reminds me of that old telephone game we played as kids where one person would say something to someone and then that person would turn to another and repeat what he heard.  The message heard last is never what was initially said.  Fun game, but frustrating, right?  We’ve all been in similar situations at times, but it’s how we deal with them that truly matters.

For my client’s part, he owned up to the miscommunication and confusion and I apologized for any additional issues that may have arisen due to my lack of knowledge.  I didn’t have to, but I thought it was the right thing to do under the circumstances.  I didn’t want my client to get into any trouble for something that I had inadvertently done. 

When there are too many people involved in a single project it can get messy.  Not only do you have to figure out who all the players are upfront, but you have to make sure you know what is expected from all and how each individual wants the project done.  Phew!!!  

Too many hands in the pot can be a disaster if you don’t know all the details.  That’s why I try not to get involved in these types of situations as they can cause undue stress, poor communication and job performance; but sometimes it’s inevitable.  Will I continue to work on this particular project for my client??? Absolutely!  But, you can bet I will be asking even more questions from here on out so that this situation doesn’t happen again.

Have any of you experienced similar situations?  If you have, what did you do and how was the situation resolved?  I know we all could use additional suggestions for the future and I’m looking forward to seeing yours!

Mass Communication Skills: Provoking an Emotional Response

Who should be sharpening their mass communication skills?

Social media marketers, press release writers, bloggers, freelancers, designers, web 2.0 developers, and basically everyone else who is in the business to make a good living from an online business. You have to know how to get your message out. Today, I am going to share a theory I have been reading more about called: the cultural theory.

What is the cultural theory of mass communication?

The cultural theory of mass communication is the belief that mass communication processes have the potential to shape our reality.

What the heck does that mean?

The cultural theory of mass communication is about three very important things:

  1. Knowing your message.
  2. Knowing your audience.
  3. Knowing how to get your audience to hear your message and remember it.

If you are successful with number three, then you know how to utilize the value of perception and convert your audience to be a customer / client / faithful reader / etc. Advertisements designed with the cultural theory in mind are the types that are aimed to be more “interactive” so that the messages are received, processed, and then stored by the viewer.

So, how do you provoke this emotional response with your message?

It takes trial and error with a dash of common sense to choose which of the following ideas will work with your message. If you get a person to hear a message, then you must practice stimulating an audience response by

  • asking the audience a question,
  • showing the audience an attractive picture (like a beach or a beautiful person),
  • getting the audience to question their position,
  • showing the audience a repulsive image (like starving children or magnified pictures of harmful micro-organisms)
  • recreating a memory of the audience past (we all enjoy a blast from the past every now and then),
  • or predicting what might come to be in the audience future.

Any way you look at it, a message sent to make the recipient believe that it might directly affect him/her is a message that will be processed and stored. This would be the type of communication that reaches to relate to people of the target audience and add value to the specific individual’s situation (whether by entertaining or informing).

The messages that the media and advertising executives want you to see or hear and remember are more often delivered with some kind of spin that plays on the emotions of the audience. The stronger the emotion you can provoke will determine how memorable the message was.

Add a Facebook Like Button to Your Website or Blog

This is a beginner’s tutorial and does not include information on how to add/edit your meta data in the html head tags. Adding the meta tags are not a necessity to add the like plug in to your website. – If that makes no sense to you, then you are in the right place!

This post will show you how to get the custom code for your site and how you may want to put it on your site. There are two ways to create the code for your website:

The Code Generator (recommended)

1. Go to Facebook “Like” Button Reference Page.

2. Skip right to the bottom of this page and you will see a form that looks like this and you will fill in your information like I have done for Virtual IT Assistants.

3. The get code will generate code like this:

Write the Code by Hand (simplest form possible)

1. Copy the following code

<iframe src="http://www.facebook.com/widgets/like.php?href=http://www.Your-Website-Address.com" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="border:none; width:230px; height:80px"></iframe>

2. Replace the www.Your-Website-Address.com with your real website or blog site address.

How to Get it on Your Website or Blog

Blogger: In a blogger blog, go to “edit layout”, click on “add a gadget”, choose the gadget for adding HTML/JavaScript, and then paste your code there and save.

HTML: Once you have copied the code, paste your code into your website’s html pages within the body of your page. It’s probably best to start with your homepage index.html or index.php. Always open a page in a browser before uploading to your live website.

WordPress: This works best on self-hosted websites: Go to widgets and create a new text widget and paste the code, and then save. Another option is to go to your homepage and view it in your wordpress site’s html view and paste your custom code. Preview the changes if you edit a page or post.

Notice that the code for the Facebook “Like” button starts with an “iframe”. This means you will not be able to use this code on a wordpress.com blog. I am still working on a simple way to add the like option if your blog is hosted here so stay tuned.

Paragraph Dos and Don’ts

A Paragraph is a distinct portion of written dealing with a particular idea, usually beginning with an indented first line.

1. Do have a topic sentence.
A topic sentence is the sentence that “sums up” what your paragraph be about. Make sure that each topic sentence supports the main idea of the entire essay or article. RARE EXCEPTIONS: Paragraphs that describe, narrate, or detail the steps in an experiment do not usually need topic sentences.

2. Don’t include excessive, irrelevant details.
Focus on your main purpose for writing. Too many details dilute your message. Period.

3. Do include enough detail sentences to support your topic sentence.
Have at least one or two supporting detail sentences. Each paragraph should be three or more sentences long. Warning: Too many details will dilute your message.

4. Don’t include unverified content.
Even one inaccurate detail can discredit your writing. If you don’t know for absolute certain a statement is true, say so even before you write it.

5. Do use paragraphs to separate different views of an argument.
If you have sufficient details to support two or more different sides of an issue you should put each standpoint into its own separate paragraph.

6. Don’t present both sides of an argument in one paragraph.
Reading an article from an undecided author can be daunting. It is often important to show both sides of an argument. Unless you have no supporting details for each argument you present, separate each point of view in separate paragraphs.

7. Do keep the paragraphs in your article around the same size.
This is merely an esthetic preference for most readers. It can be difficult to achieve, but it’s worth it to make it easier on the readers eyes.

8. Don’t let paragraphs get too long.
Paragraphs taking up half or even whole pages can and should be broken down into at least three or even four paragraphs whenever possible.


Rules for Writing Paragraphs – References:

Driscoll, D. L., Brizee, A. (2010, January 8 ).  Paragraphs and
Paragraphing
. Retrieved April 6, 2010 from Purdue University at
Lafayette, OWL Web site:
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/606/01/

(n.d.).  Paragraph Development and Topic Sentences. Retrieved
April 6, 2010 from Capital Community College Foundation Web site:
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/paragraphs.htm

Turner, D. ().  Dividing your Argument. Retrieved  from
University of Ottowa Canada, Writing Centre Web site:
http://www.writingcentre.uottawa.ca/hypergrammar/pardiv.html

Are You a Tire Kicker? If So, Knock It Off!

 Wow, this has been one crazy week!  I’m helping a local client with tax preparations, not to mention the growing need for Social Media – clients inquiring everyday (new and current clients), a child with the stomach flu and the other child was in the school play this week.  I’M EXHAUSTED!  Did I mention the last minute project that needs to be finished by Friday night at midnight?

 Being a Virtual Assistant, you receive a lot of inquiries, such as, “Now what does a Virtual Assistant do exactly?”   That’s ok, since most VAs I know love to explain what a VA can do for you and how it works.  But, quite often you get these tire kickers – asking repeatedly how you can help with no real intention of using your service at that time.  Anyone else experience this?

In the middle of one heck of a busy Friday – I see a post from a prospect, potential client or tire kicker.  I had spoken to the prospect a couple months back.  They asked me how I did this, this and this and I told them.  Yea, I told them – They were inquiring about using my services and expertise to add to their list. Well, guess what?  They’re now using my services exactly how I told them I would do it, but, without me.  That’s ok though ;)

The saying, “You get what you pay for,” is oh so true in the virtual world.  It’s taken me awhile to learn this, but it always comes back to you.  Word to the wise for you tire-kickers…we’re catching on and we know your kicking several tires.  The Virtual Assistant community is a close knit community for the most part and yes, we do give warnings to our friends.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong in speaking with several Virtual Assistants to see which one (if one) is a perfect match for you; but not on a continual basis.  Our job is to help your business grow and that’s why we’re here.  So, no more tire kicking and let’s take your business to the next level!