9 Tips for Email Etiquette

By, Syndi Seid

1. Begin each message with a cordial greeting. A person would never dream of writing a letter or sending a fax without some form of a greeting or header. Why should email be any different. Always begin with something such as, “Dear …;” “Hello,” or at the very least the person’s name, followed by a colon, not a comma (colons are for business/professional correspondence and commas are for social/casual correspondence).

2. End each message with a signature and contact information. Always sign your first and last name at the end of each message. Configure an auto signature into your system which will contain all important contact information (including your name, address, telephone and fax numbers, and a repeat of your email address). Think of this as being no different than sending a letter using a sheet of letterhead.

3. Always re-read messages before sending them. Do not transmit messages the moment you write them. Instead, during any one email session, draft all messages and replies; place them in the out box; then re-read each message, use spell check before transmitting the entire group of messages.

4. Always make reference to the subject matter about which you are responding. With the multitudes of email messages we get daily, nothing is worse than to receive a cryptic reply, with no opening greeting, no name at the end, no previous message attached, just an, “O.K.,” “I agree,” “Do it!” attached.

5. Use the copy and paste feature to forward messages rather than as an attachment to the message. Except when messages are within the same known company or group, not everyone on email has the same platform applications and programs, allowing each person to easily open and read files. By taking the few seconds to first copy and paste the message, it will save valuable time and effort in having to retransmit what might have been important information again at a later time.

6. Review the trail of previous messages when using the “Reply To” feature to compose new messages. A) Make sure they are still relevant to the current subject listed; B) all unrelated text should be deleted before sending a new message on a new subject; C) always type a new subject line; D) keep only an average of two previous sets of messages attached, as necessary.

7. When sending group messages, especially to recipients who all do not even know each other, DO NOT send batch messages using the “To” option. Instead, use the “Bcc:” (blind copy option) to send each person the message individually. This way it will avoid: A) everyone seeing your long list of recipients; B) everyone having full access to your valuable and private mailing list – for free; C) unknown and undesired people having access to private information of individuals who may not want it broadcast. Last, do not send replies to the entire group unless specifically instructed. This item is perhaps my biggest pet peeve with email.

8. Know your e-pals. Not all systems have the same ability to read the same fonts, indents, bold lettering, centering, italics and the like … results being: A) the recipient might not receive the message at all; B) it may be received without any formatting in one long string of text; C) it may even show a series of extra and unwanted codes and lines. PCs and Macs still don’t communicate well; and some servers, such as Juno, have been strict for email messages, with no graphics or attachments possible.

9. Most importantly, especially when communicating with people in and from other cultures and countries, make sure you do not use any abbreviations, slang and jargon. Always use proper grammar and courteous language in whole, complete sentences. Be sensitive to how the tone of your message may sound and be received by the other person…by being mindful of the particular words you choose to use and write.

BOTTOM LINE: Email is a terrific, quick and easy way to communicate. Nevertheless, we must never forget to use the same care and courtesy in our writings as we would when speaking to someone in person.

Happy Practicing!

Syndi Seid is the world’s leading etiquette trainer, celebrity speaker, and founder of San Francisco-based Advanced Etiquette.

Customer Spotlight: Theresa Mathis, City of Wilson, NC

Theresa Mathis: City of Wilson, NC

I am an event planner for the City of Wilson, Human Relations Office. We are a community affairs organization that collaborates with many organizations across the county to engage, celebrate and educate our citizens.

What do you have planned for the future?

For myself, retirement at a lake house! But, within the job, we strive each year to expand our community events to provide more awareness and education for our citizens. Our goal is to have active citizens that are participating in the community.

How does the city organization working environment compare to that of a private business?

In working for the a City, the pressure is off to raise the profit margin. While we do have to make sure our budgetary spending is appropriate, helps the needy and is in no way wasteful. The focus is on the work not the dollar signs. We are given the opportunity to reach out to those citizens that really need help.

How have you been able to use our name tag products?

As an event planner, the name tag ribbons have been priceless! I first was introduced to your products through student activities on college campuses in the mid-90’s. I have used your name tag products and ribbons for events ever since! Every job I’ve moved to, your catalog/web info has been clutched in my hands. I am a big fan of the name tag ribbons.

I think the ribbons are so important for many reasons. One, they give a level of distinction to participants. Whether it is a judge, keynote speaker, volunteer or committee member, receiving that special name tag with a beautiful ribbon makes everyone feel important. It raises the bar of performance. Anyone can slap a sticky label on their lapel with a name written in magic marker. But, preparing a proper name tag and adding a ribbon demonstrates to the person that you care and are prepared and thus makes them interact the same way. As for the patrons of the event, the ribbons help those “in the know” stand out. They automatically know who can help them, who to congratulate or who to thank. The name tags become a keepsake for everyone. When folks want to keep a piece of your event, that is a milestone of a well planned event.

A fun side story, when I worked for a couple of years at a dot com web company, we were a very tight knit group. We all worked in one large war room style office, a very chatty group and over time, we all developed nick names. One summer the boss wanted to have a retreat to refocus the group. He asked that I set up the weekend as if it were a professional conference and hundreds were attending. We had a great weekend and all went well. The key element that everyone still remembers, were the custom name tag ribbons. The plastic badge had our official name, but the ribbons had our nick names. Mine said “office princess”. When I catch up with my old buddies from the office, they always talk about those ribbons and many still have them 10 years later. TRUE STORY!

What advice would you give other organizations?

Don’t hesitate to use these products. You will not regret it! Name Tag, Inc. has provided consistent, high quality products that I’ve grown to depend upon. The customization office is flexible and creative. They will help you tackle any project. When planning events, details such as name tags show that all is well.

8 Tips on Professional Company and Organization Image

By, Syndi Seid

When you hear the term “professional image” do you think about how an individual looks and behaves? What about the professional image of a company or organization? Does your company or organization have a good professional image?

Here are 8 tips to keep your company’s professional image at its highest level.

1. MAINTAIN REGULAR OFFICE HOURS

Most for-profit businesses maintain set business hours, typically Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Yet when it comes to non-profit organizations, especially when staff and volunteers are lacking, office hours can be erratic. Establish regular hours so your clients, customers, members and most importantly donors will know the best times to reach you, even if you are open only two or three days a week or have limited hours. State them clearly on your voice mail greeting and on your web site.

2. RETURN ALL MESSAGES RECEIVED WITHIN 24 TO 48 HOURS

Designate one person to monitor emails and voice mails and to return each message within 24 to 48 hours. This way the person will know you care about being responsive in a consistent manner. When an individual is away or the office is closed, attach an auto-reply to your email and change your voice mail greeting to alert callers about when you will be back for return calls. Never leave callers hanging as to when they may ever hear from you.

3. USE WELL DESIGNED LETTERHEAD AND OTHER PRINTED AND ONLINE MESSAGING, AND WRITE A NOTE OR LETTER CORRECTLY.

Care enough about your organization’s image when it comes to the stationery and online presence you create. Even more than your personal appearance, websites and printed materials are seen and read over and over again.

  • A web site today is a must. You might as well forget opening up shop if you don’t have one. It’s best always to use a professional web designer, but at minimum use an existing design template. A do-it-yourself website is immediately recognizable as such and presents an amateurish and unprofessional image.
  • Do not send letters that are improperly folded and appear crooked. It implies sloppiness.
  • When a letter is only a few sentences long, do not have it appear at the top of the sheet. Instead, lower the content to be centered on the page.
  • Use time honored letter writing skills when addressing a letter or email. Improper punctuation, will show your level of education and professionalism. Knowing how to send letters and emails using a few basic skills will go a long way in presenting a great professional image.

4. USE DOCUMENTED PROCESSES (RATHER THAN REINVENTING THE WHEEL)

One of the worst things I see often is how an organization keeps doing the same thing over and over again as though it was a new idea, mainly because the organization didn’t keep notes on past work. Maintain a dedicated journal of meeting minutes and events, describing what went well, what needed improving and new ideas to consider in the future. Especially for special events, keep historical copies of all items used for each event. Then, as staff and volunteers are replaced, or you hire an event planner, these documents will become the most helpful training tool to help learn what to incorporate as best practices and what mistakes not to repeat.

5. ORGANIZE AND REHEARSE FOR MEETINGS AND SPECIAL EVENTS

It’s important to respect everyone’s time, no matter if they’re staff, vendors, clients, volunteers or board members for non-profit organizations. One of the most irritating situations (which once caused me to resign from a non-profit board) is the inability of the chair and meeting facilitator to properly plan and run a meeting. At minimum, always have an agenda and distribute it ahead of time so everyone will know what will be discussed and how best they might contribute to the discussions. During the meeting, facilitators must show authority in keeping discussions on point and on time. Distribute the minutes of the meeting as soon as possible to help keep those people who were unable to attend in the loop, and to know what may be expected of them before the next meeting.

When it comes to special events that showcase your company, organization and business, make every effort to make a lasting impression. Plan and script out every detail from the time guests enter the event to the time they leave. Hold at least one rehearsal and walk-through with the event staff to address all situations that might arise. Put yourself in the guest’s position by thinking through how you would like to be treated from start to finish. One event may make the difference between gaining or losing a potential client, customer, donor or member of your organization.

6. NEVER USE, “WE’RE JUST A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION” AS AN EXCUSE

What a cop-out! I even hear, “we’re just a small business,” which is equally offensive. Does this truly mean people cannot expect professionalism from a non-profit or small business? Please.

7. WEAR APPROPRIATE BUSINESS AND EVENT ATTIRE

It does matter how you look when you appear in the office or attend meetings and events. There is something uplifting whenever I see everyone in an office dressed nicely and displaying good grooming habits. By this I mean no sloppy hair with dandruff, clean well trimmed fingernails, and nice smiles showing clean teeth. It bothers me when I see employees wearing wrinkled, dirty, stained, torn clothes that fit poorly. Their attire is better suited to a backyard.

The clothes people wear at your company are a sign of how much the company cares about its professional appearance, which then transfers to caring about the employees appearance in all other aspects of their work. If a company appears not to care about their own personal appearance, what else might it not care about in its work? Tests have shown when an office is more professionally dressed, productivity and accuracy increases. Also, when you hold an event that specifies a certain attire (example: black tie) everyone attending—staff and board members included—must dress in what is being advertised. Otherwise, you are not holding the event in full integrity. Volunteers should equally be asked to wear specific clothes; perhaps black pants and white shirt or blouse.

8. SAY THANK YOU AND SEND THANK YOU NOTES

Say thank you and send thank you notes as often as possible. They show your appreciation and acknowledgment of someone’s work and contributions to the organization. They are the key and at the core of building and sustaining lasting relationships among co-workers, bosses, clients, customers, family, friends and anyone with whom you come into contact. For the best impact, send thank you notes, written by hand and sent by regular mail, within 24 to 48 hours after the event. You can never write too many.

BONUS: One of my biggest pet peeves when attending events is how the organizers print name tags, often at a font size that cannot be read at any distance. What a waste of intention and energy! Name tags are the most critical component to the success or failure of an event. It’s the difference between making or not making important connections by virtue of seeing someone’s name tag at a distance. See Name Tag Etiquette: Printing Name Tags to review the guidelines on how to print name tags.

QUESTION: What pet peeves do you have about companies and non-profits in terms of their professional image not being as good as they should be? Enter your comments below.

HAPPY PRACTICING!

Syndi Seid is the world’s leading etiquette trainer, celebrity speaker and founder of San Francisco-based Advanced Etiquette.

The Perfect Thank You Note

By, Syndi Seid

With Halloween coming up, then Thanksgiving, and finally all the end-of-the-year holiday celebrations upon us soon, we thought this might be a great opportunity to revisit the guidelines to sending a perfect thank you note.

No matter what, a personal, handwritten thank you note is the finest form of expressing gratitude for almost anything and everything we receive from someone in life, especially a gift.

A gift can be many things: a physical item, a good job someone has done for you at work or at home and an invitation to a party or meal. In fact, how about using the next two months to catch up on all those thank-you notes you’ve been meaning to send. In business it’s the perfect time — before the end-of-the-year rush — to send clients, customers, vendors and suppliers your note of appreciation for their business and service. By starting to get them written now, you can avoid being rushed and out of time later. Write them all now and send them later.

Here is a simple guide for thank you notes for both business and personal use:

Ideally, send thank you notes within 24 to 48 hours of receiving the gift. The sooner you send it, the greater the impact it will have. However, it is never too late to send a note. Use this month of thanks to catch up on your thank yous, no matter how much time has gone by.

To save time and stress, keep a supply of note cards and stationery, plus postage stamps to have ready at all times. Write all your notes by hand. Take your time, regardless of how impaired you think your handwriting looks. Also, forget going green on this task. It does take the most effort and time, yet is the most tangible evidence of our genuine appreciation of the person to whom it is addressed. Pay attention to how the card faces when opened. I can’t tell you how many times I receive cards written on the wrong side or in the wrong direction.

*For vertical, left creased cards: begin writing on the inner, right side of the folded card.

*For horizontal, top creased cards: begin writing on the inner, lower side of the folded card.

*Some cards are difficult to tell which way it is intended to face. Be sure to look at the back side of the card for guidance in this area.

Begin the note based on your relationship with the receiver.

*For personal correspondence where you are accustomed to calling the person by their first name: Dear John and Mary, (first name followed by a comma is correct).

*For business notes, stick to formal salutations until you are invited to address the person by the first name: Dear Ms. Smith: (an honorific and last name, followed by a colon is proper).

*For informal business notes, addressed to someone with whom you want to address by their first name: Dear John: (first name and a colon is also appropriate).

Be specific in your thanks. When thanking someone for inviting you to a meal or event, mention how happy you were to share in the experience, mention a person you enjoyed meeting, or a food item you particularly liked. When thanking someone for performing a favor for you, explain how important their gift of time was for you. For physical gifts, name the item, along with something nice and complimentary about it.

*Don’t say: “Dear Aunt Sarah, Thank you for the lovely gift. I really like it. Love, Syndi”.

*Do say: “Dear Aunt Sarah, Thank you very much for the beautiful black sweater for my birthday. It’s just the perfect item to wear at an evening occasion where I want to stay warm, yet still look dressy. Your loving niece, Syndi Seid”.

Sign your first and last name clearly at the end of your note. An exception may be to an immediate family member who knows who you are by your handwriting. Address the envelope using the person’s full name and appropriate honorific. Include your full name and return address. Use a regular postage stamp rather than metered postage to send your note.

Happy Thanking!

BONUS: This month, with enjoying football games and other events, I suggest you take some time to send at least eight (it’s a good luck number) quick and simple handwritten notes by regular mail. Take a moment to show your appreciation and thankfulness to someone you know for whatever reason you want, perhaps if only to say Hello!

Syndi Seid is a regular contributing writer, professional speaker/trainer, and founder of a San Francisco-based business that offers monthly etiquette articles.

Conference Attending Courtesies

by Syndi Seid

There is an art to attending professional conferences. Invariably as the season begins I’m asked about the etiquette of attending conferences. If you thought it was quite enough to simply pay the fees and show up, think again.

Whether you are just getting started or you are a seasoned conference participant, let’s face it, attending a conference requires expending your personal resources, money, time, physical and mental commitment. So, why not make the most of the experience!
BEFORE THE CONFERENCE

1. Mark your calendar to plan ahead. Do yourself a favor, take time to plan ahead and make the most of your investment. Read all information about the conference beforehand. About 30 days out, review any additional conference information sent via email or posted online at the sponsoring organization’s web site. Make note of the specific workshops you want to attend. Begin planning your wardrobe to match the weather conditions of the host locale, paying close attention to any special requests for attire to attend certain events, e.g., the Saturday evening formal awards banquet.

2. Be prepared with all items needed for the conference: Let’s face it, people attend conferences to network, learn new ideas, get their name and company known, and promote their product or service. One of etiquette’s biggest taboos is to show up at conferences without bringing enough hand-outs. Do whatever is necessary to assure an ample supply of business cards and information you want to distribute during the conference. In fact, bring double or triple the amount you would normally think to bring; or arrange to use a local copy center. Better to bring home extras than to disappoint your colleagues by not having enough.

Starting about a month in advance, compile a list of all items you will need to begin packing for an out of town conference. Pay attention to the details, including outlining the proper attire for various events. Perhaps there’s a formal night or a themed event, such as a Western night. A good way to make a poor impression is to arrive at a formal event night wearing daily street clothes. This kind of behavior tells your colleagues you didn’t read the literature or care enough to honor the event. Don’t be surprised if by not dressing appropriately, you will not allowed inside. More about wardrobe planning: most conference sites keep you apprised of weather conditions for the location to which you will be traveling, and whether there will be any outdoor events for which you should be packing a warm sweater or jacket. Pay attention to the type of facility you will be visiting, such as the appropriate attire for a big city hotel, versus a golf resort, versus a private club in a vacation locale. Each has it’s own culture when it comes to attire.

3. Be responsive to all requests for information: From the time you register to attend the conference, till the end evaluation form, be sensitive to the needs of the organizers. Show your sense of responsibility by sending complete and accurate paperwork at all times, and by the due date. There is nothing worse for an organizer than to have to chase down and baby-sit someone to get necessary items.

AT THE CONFERENCE

1. Arrive at the conference ahead of time. This is the perfect time to check in early, get your full package of conference materials and relax in your room to read through everything. NOTE: This is not a time to penny-pinch on spending for an extra room night. With airline schedules being unreliable for one reason or another, it is always best to arrive hours and even a day ahead. Use this extra time to rejuvenate your strength for the rigorous days ahead. Take a walk around the hotel facility and grounds to become familiar with where various rooms are located and the travel patterns you will need to take to get from one place to another during the conference. Learn how long it will take to walk from one location to another to avoid ever being late to an activity. Once the event gets underway and you’re running to keep up with tight meeting schedules, get-togethers with colleagues and more, you’ll be glad you took this extra time upon arrival.

2. Wear your name badge at all times. Because I attend lots of professional meetings, I always carry my own magnetic name badge holder and wear it on my upper right shoulder. This allows me to achieve the best networking support at all times. I want people to see my name badge and remember who I am. As a result, I will not wear a badge using a lanyard around my neck. Here’s why: it rarely faces forward for someone to easily see, it is positioned halfway down my chest which draws the eye to an area of my body I don’t prefer people staring at; and when I’m sitting at a table, it’s totally out of sight. To me, lanyard style badges are ideal for trade shows and exhibitions, where badges are more for identification purposes than for real networking.

3. Be on time throughout the conference. From the moment the conference begins, right through to the end be respectful of the overall timeline for the conference; always stay with the schedule. Do not allow yourself to be delayed in between sessions. If you want to speak with someone get their room number, cell phone number, or set an appointment to meet later at a certain time and place. Neither the organizers nor the presenters appreciate being ignored or unnecessarily interrupted.

4. Meet and greet everyone with a proper handshake, a smile, and good eye contact: With every day that passes, it continues to amaze me how so-called professional men and women still do not know how to give a firm and proper handshake, do not give proper eye contact, and barely smile when meeting someone. I’d like to think no one reading this newsletter has an issue with this item. Perhaps you have read my past newsletters on Handshaking Techniques, Eye Contact, and Networking skills.

5. Create a plan for organizing the contacts you make. Take time at the end of each day to make notes about each person you meet. Organize cards and notes in a way it will be easy for you to follow-up after the conference. If you are unsure about someone, take a moment the next day to say hello to the person again; clarify whatever you need.

6. Do not sign up for more than one session at the same time. Choose the one best session you want to attend and then find a conference buddy to get you extra hand-outs from the other sessions.

7. Remain silent during all announcements and speeches. Perhaps this is the hottest issue I hear about over and over again: participants being discourteous to the speaker. No matter how difficult it may be to hear the speaker, how boring the person may be, or if the announcement or speech is being spoken in a foreign language you don’t understand, you must remain silent as a courtesy to the speaker. If you must talk to someone, leave the room. If you must take a cell phone call, leave the room. Please do everyone a favor, the next time this situation happens at your table, quietly and politely ask the person to remain silent, so you can hear what’s being said. And, if you are the offender, stop it!

8. Stay alert throughout the conference. Conferences lasting more than a day can be exhausting. To prevent falling asleep, eat lightly throughout the conference. Drink more water than usual and keep all alcohol consumption to a minimum. Take short walks whenever possible. Wear loose and comfortable clothes and shoes. Most importantly, maintain good posture at all times. Don’t slouch in the chair. Take quiet, periodic deep breaths to help the flow of oxygen and blood throughout the body. Pace yourself to get proper rest and sleep. Sneaking a quick 15-minute nap here and there does wonders.

9. Do not make a fuss or be a complainer. No one enjoys hearing complaints or criticisms about how things are being handled during a conference. When a negative situation arises you feel needs to be reported, remain calm, explain the situation in a normal tone of voice, and ask for reasonable, mutually agreeable solutions. Thereafter, keep to yourself whatever other complaints you may have. Most professional meetings request that you complete an evaluation sheet. This is the best time to write down complaints and helpful suggestions for improvement. Or, at the close of the meeting email or call the organizers to submit your thoughts.

AFTER THE CONFERENCE

Follow-up with everyone you meet. You just never know who will turn out to be a valuable resource, treasured colleague, or lasting friend. So, why not do the right thing and follow the advice of the best etiquette books, which tell us it’s good manners to follow-up with everyone we meet, and to certainly follow-up with whatever you may have promised. We all know how difficult this task is. Some people use their return flight time to write thank- you notes. It is well known the #1 sign of a true professional is when s/he tackles this chore: so just do it!

TIP: When first announcing your plans to attend a conference, tell everyone you are leaving a day earlier than the actual departure date and tell everyone you will be returning one day later. Then use these two bookend times to focus on making the most of the experience. Use the day before to finalize last-minute details and prepare. Use the day immediately after to focus on starting your follow-up work, while contacts are still fresh in your mind.

Another idea is to actually stay an extra night at the hotel so you can relax and begin your follow-up work uninterrupted; not to mention resting up. This also could be a good time to arrange meetings with colleagues you met at the conference who, like you, have delayed departure time. Or, just use this extra time to be a tourist and enjoy the sights.

Happy Practicing!!!
About the Author
Syndi Seid is the world’s leading etiquette trainer, celebrity speaker, and founder of San Francisco-based Advanced Etiquette.