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January 31, 2014

As the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 12 reminded us, many star performers have a hard time speaking onstage — or even sitting politely in the audience. But their gaffes provide lessons for everyone in business, according to a Fortune article.

Jacqueline Bisset, disoriented in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress in the BBC miniseries “Dancing on the Edge,” illustrated the consequences of failing to prepare, even when you think your chances of reaching the stage are remote. In business, don’t assume that you won’t have a role to play in an upcoming meeting. Even social events require some degree of preparation.

Jennifer Lawrence also seemed surprised when she won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in the movie “American Hustle.” But unlike Bisset, Lawrence pulled herself together, graciously acknowledging the esteemed actors she had competed against. Cameras cut to Helen Mirren, who appeared cheerful, and then to Jessica Lange, whose sour face resembled those corporate presenters who look bored as a colleague speaks — perhaps assuming that people aren’t paying attention.

When it’s your turn to speak, make the most of the spotlight, Fortune suggests. Too many business presenters waste time showing soporific organizational charts, typically at the start of a presentation when capturing attention is most critical.


A Jan. 6 post on FastCompany.com rounded up advice from successful authors on how to improve your prose.

A popular tip from the writers: Discard clichés. We hear them all the time, so they become the first words that come to mind — but the more familiar a term or phrase is, the more likely we are to skip over it when we read. Try to use different language to explain familiar concepts, as long as readers can still understand it. Even as you avoid clichés, write like you speak.

As novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard once said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

And novelist Kurt Vonnegut expressed a similar idea: “I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.”


Text messaging may be on a downward spiral, Fast Company reported on Jan. 14. According to estimates from Deloitte, people in the United Kingdom are sending fewer text messages through their cell phone carriers, with usage dropping from 152 billion in 2012 to 145 billion in 2013.

Meanwhile, apps that bypass carrier messaging and use data connections instead — like WhatsApp, iMessage and Snapchat — are rising in popularity. The shift in the U.K. may be representative of a global trend, according to the piece.

According to the nonprofit Wireless Association, in 2012, Americans texted each other 2.19 trillion times, down 4.9 percent from the prior year, after at least three consecutive years of growth.

A survey attributed the decline to smartphone saturation, which is leading more people to use Internet-based applications for messaging. The Business Insider website reported a similar trend in the United States, crediting the decline in carrier-based texting both to data-reliant mobile apps and to the dominance of young mobile users in the market.


To write better sentences, include specific facts based on the five Ws — who, what, where, when and why — according to a recent post on CopyBlogger.com.

Create images by using concrete nouns and active verbs. Evoke the senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. Don’t insult the reader’s intelligence by over-explaining, but don’t abuse her intelligence by starving it either.

For copywriters in particular, what is the dominant mood of your reader or customer? What problem is he or she trying to solve, and what are her hopes, dreams and fears? Insert those emotions into your sentences, the post said. Make promises that spur action. People should see hope in your sentences. What advantages will the reader gain? What pain will they avoid?

The goal is to blend these elements so they feel natural in the sentence and people cannot pull them apart. Writing great sentences takes work, so practice. Twitter is a good training ground, forcing you to say a lot in 140 characters or less.


According to a survey conducted by Forbes Insights and Adobe , 83 percent of corporate executives said that the most common use of mobile apps was to communicate with customers.

The other uses of apps included: customer service or support (79 percent), information about a product (74 percent), facilitation of transactions (69 percent) and brand engagement (67 percent).


Can you identify today’s top news anchors?

For many Americans, matching names with news anchors’ faces is tougher than it was roughly 30 years ago. In an online survey conducted by Pew Research, just 27 percent of the public could correctly identify Brian Williams, anchor of the top-rated “NBC Nightly News.”

Researchers showed respondents a picture of Williams and asked them to name the person in the photo. While 3 percent were able to identify Williams’ profession — anchor or reporter — 53 percent did not know who he was and 18 percent named someone other than Williams.

The lower public awareness of on-air personalities reflects a large decline in the audience for nightly network news since the 1980s.

 



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