Friday, September 30, 2011

More Communication, Fewer Manners

It seems like manners have gone out the window in this age of connectivity. In social situations, we are competing with smartphones and tablets for the attention of our associates. We see unintentional rudeness occurring due to devices all the time. Below are some examples of common connectivity faux pas and stategies to prevent committing them.

Phones at the Dinner Table – Just as you would not turn your back to someone you are talking with, texting or answering your phone while dining is not very polite.

Tips to Avoid this:

  • Excuse yourself from the table if you need to take an urgent call.
  • If you know you will be distracted and curious if your phone alerts you of a text, take a preventive step and turn it off.
  • For dinners lasting longer than an hour, you could suggest the table take a “cell phone break” for those who need or want to check their emails or messages.

Loud Phone Calls in Public Places – No one wants to hear the ins and outs of a stranger’s relationship. While you may not realize how loudly you are speaking or how quiet the environment around you is, you can be sure the people close to you do.

Tips to Avoid this:

  • Silence your phone and do not answer it
  • If you need to answer the call, step away to a secluded area to take it and tell the caller that their call is important and you will call them back in x amount of minutes.
  • If you must take the phone call and you are waiting in line, ask the person behind you to hold your spot and quickly go take your call.

Becoming Overly Dependent on Digital Communication – Email is a popular way to communicate but making it the only way people can get a hold of you will make you too dependent on your device. This can lead to disconnection and distraction in face-to-face social situations.

Tips to Avoid this:

  • Make the most of face-to-face communications.
  • Make your phone to be the best way to get a hold of you over email or texting.
  • Resist the urge to respond to email immediately, wait to check it after you leave your social engagement.

In the age of connectivity it is up to us to recognize when the things we do have a negative influence on our environment or our companions. Tell us of any examples you can think of where being overly connected has created social faux pas.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tips on how to network

We all network, every day. At its base level, networking is simply communicating with someone in an effective way. Whether it’s a conversation at the water cooler or at a business event, knowing how to effectively network is an important skill for anyone growing in his or her career. Here are some key tips and tricks to keep in mind whenever you find yourself in an important conversation. Remember, these tips may be applicable in all areas of life, but are especially helpful in developing a business personality.

You’re There to Give, not Get

    Giving an arduous monologue can easily get in the way of a meaningful conversation. Don’t let your portion of the conversation overrun that of the person with whom you are speaking. Remember, you should do your best to contribute to the conversation in a constructive way. This means allowing the conversation partner ample time to speak their mind and share their thoughts. Don’t forget to respect the speaking time of the other person in the conversation. You’re there to give a platform for the other person to speak.

Don’t Appear Desperate

    In this way, networking at a professional level is the same as dating. Being too desperate is a major turn off. If you find yourself networking with someone in a higher position or someone who could offer you something professionally, do your best to avoid appearing needy. Instead, find confidence in what you’re offering them. Believe that what you have to offer is valuable, because it most certainly is! If you don’t have confidence in what you can bring to the table professionally, it may be a sign that you should peruse other endeavors. Keep in mind, when networking professionally, confidence is key.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

    Keeping the conversation alive is important. Be careful to steer clear of “yes” or “no” questions, because they generally deny the responder the chance to elaborate. If you do have a “yes” or “no” question, try rephrasing it to make it more open ended. For example, asking, “do you play any sports” is not as effective as asking “what sports do you play?” Sure, there is a chance that the responder doesn’t play any sports, but that’s an answer that they will be able to give as well as elaborate on. Allowing the chance for elaboration makes the responder feel appreciated.

Networking is all about staying comfortable and maintaining sincere conversations. For more tips, check out this article.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Change in Service: A Lesson Learned

Sometimes companies have to alter the way they do business and change their service plans. As these changes often center around a price increase, new limitations, or dismissal of services altogether, customers can have a negative reaction to the news. For some companies, breaking the news goes smoothly as they take measures to soften the blow, while others spring the news to the clients with minimal warning or explanation.

The way in which Netflix managed its recent service changes is a perfect example of this type of news being received poorly. Netflix decided to separate their services, DVD-by-mail and streaming, and raise their prices significantly for both. Customers viewed the execution of the change as abrupt and confusing. In the brief time since the initial announcement, many of Netflix’s subscribers have canceled their accounts altogether. In fact, the number was significantly more than Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, was expecting.  In effort to apologize for the way Netflix handled the reorganization announcement, Hastings emailed all subscribers and posted a letter on the Netflix blog. He acknowledged that he “… messed up. [And owes] everyone an explanation,” but then went on to announce yet another change!  Netflix is separating the services even more into Qwikster, for DVD-by-mail, while the streaming services will remain as Netflix. This surprise did not have the designed effect and in fact elicited even more backlash. We will have to wait and see how Netflix deals with this new PR debacle and they may be realizing that sometimes an apology isn’t enough.

When AT&T changed their service plan in late June, it was not happy news to some existing and potential customers. They replaced their unlimited data plan with a tiered pricing plan. However they did allow subscribers who already had unlimited data plans remain grandfathered into the plan. This placated the customers who were reaping the benefits of the service being nixing. AT&T handled the situation with skill and there wasn’t a significant impact to their customer base consequently.

When companies change their services plans, regardless of the reasons for the decision, they inherently tread dangerous waters. Before alerting their customers and the world, they should develop a strategy that will minimize the backlash. If there is a drastic price increase or another product change equally undesirable from a customer’s viewpoint, here are a few strategies companies could consider to soften the effect:

  • Notice, and Lots of It:  Give the public plenty of notice and utilize a forum where customers, particularly those directly affected, can express questions and concerns.
  • Grandfathered Services:  Honor services and prices current clients have prior to the change.
  • Details:  Explain the change in detail! The more transparent you are with your announcement, the more your clients will trust your decision.
  • Discounts: Offer a free month of service or some other type of coupon if clients take advantage of multiple services

If you have any more ideas of ways companies could make the news of service plan changes easier, we’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bad office habits part 2

    We’ve talked about how easy it is to get distracted while working with the Internet at your fingertips. The Internet is one of the greatest technological advancements of the past 30 years, but workers have been getting distracted in the office long before the World Wide Web. Here are three of the most frequent ways that workers can get distracted in the office without the aid of the Internet (as well as a few steps on how to combat these bad habits).

The Water Cooler

    A strong work community is important for any business. Research has shown that workers who have developed a strong community will be more productive. However, making this community constructive for productivity is also a necessity. It’s easy to spend too much time discussing your personal life with coworkers during working hours. To help combat this, try planning a weekly after-work-hours gathering with your coworkers. This will help you stay up to date on each other’s lives without minimizing productivity during office hours.


    No matter what computer you use, there is likely some kind of preloaded game saved to the hard drive. Whether it’s Minesweeper, Chess or Solitaire, there is always a mind numbing game to indulge in during work hours. With these games, it’s easy to let a few minutes of distraction turn into hours of wasted work time. In this situation, the best thing to do is to simply delete the game off your computer. Let’s be honest, you probably don’t even enjoy playing these games that much anymore.


    We all know what it’s like to get lost in thought, daydreaming about our favorite TV show, book or movie. It’s something we do when we have low focus and it can be a big time waster. Try changing your lifestyle to help increase your focus to avoid daydreaming. Simple changes can help, like getting more sleep or eating foods that are lacking in processed sugar.

    Working without distractions can be a challenge. Even without the multiple distractions offered by the Internet, staying focused on your work can be difficult. Remember these tips during the workweek and do your best to stay on top of things. Don’t forget, 90% of productivity is focus!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Full Access: Changes in the Entertainment Industries

Entertainment industries have had to evolve in the past few years as we have gained more access to music, movies and television from online sources. Physical stores are disappearing as these businesses open online stores. Examples of these are Blockbuster, Borders, and, the iconic Virgin Megastore in Times Square. Online storefronts have become a great option for consumers as well as business as there are fewer overhead costs, which give buyers more options for less. Here are some examples of ways that access to entertainment has changed.

Independent and chain music stores have been affected by the increased access to music the Internet provides and many have had to close. Instead of buying whole albums, sites like Amazon MP3 and iTunes allow people to buy single songs for mere pocket change. Musicians have followed suit by selling or giving away their songs on their websites. Music has gotten so affordable that we have started to see the price of concert tickets increase so the record industry can turn a profit.

Another way that people are accessing music more easily is from streaming radio sites like Pandora and Grooveshark. These sites allow for free customizable radio with limited commercials. Many people use this type of service as their main household music source in place of buying music from a brick and mortar shop or even from an online source.

Another hot item that is changing the face of their industry is the eBook. Sites like Amazon sell eBooks for much cheaper than their paper counterparts. Another benefit is that they never sell out and they only weigh as much as the eBook reader they are stored on. We have seen many local and large chain bookstores close due to this competition.


Rather then pay hefty monthly prices for satellite or cable TV, many people opt to stream television and movies from an online source like Netflix or Hulu. The competition in the TV industry has pushed network channels to upload their most recently aired episodes onto their websites.


Gaining instant access to our entertainment through the Internet has made it easier and cheaper for both the consumer and businesses. You have probably heard that Netflix recently raised their prices and split their service offering into a streaming only offer or a physical DVD offer. Will this change help or hinder them? We will have to wait and see.  The outcome of this experiment may just entice other online business to follow Netflix’s example and we may see more prices rise.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Influence of the Tablet

Technology is consistently changing our lives. It happens so rapidly and seamlessly that we hardly notice.   It wasn’t long ago that stores used a manual machine to make a carbon imprint of your credit card when you made a purchases. Those machines are nearly obsolete thanks to WiFi technology and tablets. A person can now purchase an attachment for their tablet that allows them to scan credit cards virtually anywhere.

Tablets have changed a lot more than our purchasing ease and mobility. Many people have fundamentally changed their businesses thanks to tablets. The following companies use tablets in such intriguing and innovative ways it might surprise you.

 A high-end Italian restaurant in New York City called De Santos has given their entire wait staff iPad 2s. The staff uses them to take orders and even swipe your credit card after the meal. The reasoning is that this will reduce mistakes and increase efficiency.

Puma stores in Africa, Asia and Europe have installed iPad stations called The Creative Factory. At these stations customers can design sneakers and see other designs around from people around the globe as well as read about the other creators. Puma seeks to connect the world with active footwear.

At SHOPBOX, an addition to the DeKalb Market in Brooklyn, you won’t find a store or store clerks! What you will find is a shipping container with an iPad mounted on the side. Shoppers use the iPads to register then text the items they want to purchase to a number printed on the display glass. The items are then shipped to the shopper’s house. Talk about window-shopping!

As tablet technology improves, people will continue to come up with creative uses for it. How will innovation change the future? Will it eventually be “retro” to have human wait staff at restaurants? Will malls be done away with all together? Isaac Asimov said “The only constant is change” and this is glaringly true where technology is concerned. Advancements are made so quickly we hardly notice how drastically they change our lives. Usually these changes make our lives easier, so let’s relax, let it happen, and wait for our hovercrafts.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How to write the right email

Most of us compose several emails every day, to our friends, clients, coworkers and employers. It’s important to note that how we write these emails communicates more than we might realize. Taking time to choose your words carefully is important in order to avoid any discomforting miscommunication. What would your boss think if you ended an email with “Love?” Here are some tips on determining proper email language.

Opening an Email  


Composing a message to a close friend is best done in an informal tone. When writing an informal message, you don’t need to use much more than the recipient’s name. Even a simple “Hi,” will communicate a relaxed tone and let the reader know the email they are reading is from a close acquaintance.


Use this tone when writing an email to a coworker or employee, someone with whom you are familiar but also professional. Consider opening your email with “Dear,” followed by the recipient’s name or a more formal greeting such as “Good afternoon” or “Good evening.” This communicates that you respect the reader but are also approaching them with a tone of familiarity.


When writing to a higher institution, like a prospective employer, make sure and open your email with a bit more formality. Generally, you’d use this tone if the receiver were someone you were not previously familiar with. The best opening in this case is “To whom it may concern.” Using this opening communicates respect to the reader.
Closing an Email  


Again, when writing to someone with whom you share a close personally history, you can end the email by simply writing your name or “Love,” followed by your name. This is informal and lets the reader know that you meant the message to be a romantic one.


End a formal email with “Sincerely,” or “Yours truly.” This is not as informal as closing with just your name, but it also communicates some kind of personal relationship. This is the best tone to use when corresponding professionally with someone you work with on a regular basis.


Ending a professional and respectful email in the proper tone is very important. As in a formal tone, you may end the message with “Sincerely,” or even “Regards.” Both should adequately communicate respect. However, if the content of the message calls for it, ending with “Thank you for your time,” lets the reader know you are grateful for the time they’ve spent reading your message.

    Communicating the correct message is all a matter of vocabulary, so when composing your next email make sure to use the right words to communicate your desired message. This will help ensure that your friends don’t fear that you’ve become melancholy drone or lead your boss to believe you’ve become a hopeless romantic. Choose the right words so that you send the right message.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Funniest Tech Lawsuits of the Decade

Usually when people file lawsuits it’s very serious business, but every so often lawsuits are filed that are rather ridiculous. Below are a few interesting and amusing tech industry lawsuits which have been filed within the last ten years.

Pentium Allergy? – In 2002, a Dutch woman filed a lawsuit against Intel because she said she got hives from her Pentium processor. However, the 486-base processor did not have the same affect on her. The case never went to court. I suppose no one was “itching” to take it.

A Woman Lead into Danger by Google? - In 2009, Google was sued by a woman who was hit by a car on a dark narrow highway that did not have pedestrian walkways. She blamed Google because she was just following the walking directions they gave her. A judge dismissed her case and Google “dodged” the lawsuit.

Sony Killed Star Wars Galaxies! - In 2010, distraught fans of the online MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies put together a class-action lawsuit against Sony for shutting it down. Due to dwindling subscriptions, Sony continued with the shut down plans.  Unfortunately, I think the “force” is not strong with this particular case.

Woman sues man over a failed Mafia Wars romance - A woman fell in love with another player of the Facebook game, Mafia Wars, and spent thousands of dollars on Mafia Wars gifts for her beau. After the relationship ended she sued him for the money she had spent.  Her case and her love life are now “sleeping with the fishes.”

I hope these unbelievable tech lawsuits made you smile. If you have heard of any more, please share them with us by leaving a comment here or on one of our other social media accounts!