Business owners: Are you getting your message across?

Improving your personal communication skills can help in growing your business – don’t let the way you speak or write let you down
When you’re trying to grow your business, probably the most important skill you can have is the ability to communicate effectively. For existing and potential customers you are your business and they will judge you by how well you get your message across. If you can’t present a businesslike image, why should they do business with you? If you have any employees, this applies to them as well. Are they representing your business as you want them to?

Unfortunately many business people feel they let themselves down as soon as they speak or start to write something. There are various reasons for this – some feel their spelling, grammar and punctuation is not up to scratch, some think their accent or the way they speak does not fit the image they want to present, some lack conversational skills. With others the problem is lack of confidence, or downright nerves, especially if they find they have to make a speech or give presentations. There are also those who have never been properly taught how to write effectively, or how to produce effective reports, essays or letters.

Luckily, help is available from professional tutors and trainers. I have spent most of my career in communications, both written and spoken, and I now run my own business teaching communication skills to individuals and groups. This has taught me that most people can improve their communication skills, often with only a small amount of guidance, as long as they are willing to learn. Personally I cover a whole range of concerns from controlling nerves and speaking confidently in public, to the correct use of English grammar in writing. Then there are more technical skills like voice projection and Powerpoint presentations. No two clients need exactly the same kind of help, so it’s important for a tutor to tailor teaching methods to particular cases.

Very often people are unsure exactly what help they need. They are just aware that they are not expressing themselves effectively – maybe at meetings. We have all had that feeling of walking away from a conversation and realising we have not mentioned the very thing we wanted to say. In a business context that could make the difference between getting work or losing it.

As a private tutor I most often find myself dealing with elocution, accent reduction, confident speaking, conversational skills, interview skills or public speaking, although this list is by no mean exhaustive. When working with groups (for example if employer wants me to work with their staff) I will arrange workshops which tend to cover effective writing, English Language for grownups, presentation skills and how to prepare written and oral briefings. Again this is not an exhaustive list and I am happy to work with employers to supply bespoke training based on their requirements and the skill levels of their staff.

It’s all to do with communication. Ask yourself – are you (and your employees) getting your message across? If not, speak to someone who can help.

(This article first appeared in the Derwentside Business Magazine –

What you didn’t learn at school – and why

My business is helping people to improve their personal communication skills – in other words, the way they interact with other people either in writing or speaking.

This covers a wide field, and can also bring in issues such as conversational skills, accents, self-confidence, self-esteem and what sort of image of ourselves we want to show to others. Sometimes I work with individuals as a tutor, sometimes I deliver training courses and workshops to groups, but the object is always the same: to demonstrate how to be a more effective communicator.

Some of my clients are business people who are self-conscious at meetings, some have an important speech or presentation to give and need some help with technique. Some speak English as their second language (or third or fourth) and want to speak it naturally way the British do, rather than in the stilted version they learned at school in their home country.

Yet although personal communication is a wide and varied subject, I have noticed some common threads running through the hundreds of clients I have tutored or trained. One of them is anxiety about the use – or rather misuse – of English grammar, spelling and punctuation. I know that in the UK alone there are thousands of people, many in very responsible jobs, who worry that their poor grasp of the ‘rules’ of English language is letting them down. In a way they are right. Like it or not, other people do judge us by how we speak and write, and not just by what we say. They make assumptions about our origins, our education and even our intelligence and competence based only on how we pronounce words or construct a sentence. As somebody said, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

In fact if some of my clients are a bit weak when it comes to grammatical ‘rules’, that is not necessarily their fault. In the first place English is a very flexible, not to mention eccentric, language and its very lack of rules can make it baffling to learn and use. Secondly, there was a period when strict teaching of grammar, spelling and punctuation was rather out of fashion. If you happened to go to school during that period, you may not have been taught what is in this book. On the other hand, you may have been looking out of the window and not paying attention, so let’s not be too quick to blame the education system, shall we.

My experience with individual clients has led me to develop a series of training sessions called ‘English Language for Grownups’.

These are for anyone who feels they need a grounding – or a refresher – in the basics of spelling, grammar and punctuation in English. It’s not like school though – it’s more fun and there are no exams.

The first sessions – called, imaginatively, Part1 – will be held in the Constanze Suite,  Kaffeehaus Amadeus, 1 Percy Crescent, Station Road, Lanchester, County Durham DH7 0EU on Wednesday 16 March  and again on Wednesday 23 March 2016, from 9 am  to 12.30pm.


The special launch price of £99 includes delicious Kaffeehaus elevenses, bottomless coffee and tea, croissants, cheese, ham, savoury nibbles etc, and everyone attending will receive a free copy of my book ‘Grammar Gaffes’.


Interested? Book online here, or email for more details.