Developing communication skills - Great PA Series

How to become a great PA – Communication Skills

In the second post of our Become a Great PA series we look at different ways to develop and hone your communication skills.

Communications could be made in the form of face-to-face conversations, phone calls, video calls, emails and text messages. All these interactions are important for nurturing and developing relationships with the people we work with.

You may have experienced conversations getting lost in translation in a hastily written email; sometimes things can be taken the wrong way or misunderstood in a way that can cause problems or grievances. In the technology age that we live in now there are different rules of etiquette (for example not writing a message in capital letters, it looks like you are SHOUTING) or being able to condense what you are thinking into 140 characters on Twitter!

Mastering the art of communication now is an important function for a modern PA. Here are some of our top tips:

General advice

Keep and try to maintain eye contact with people.
By making eye contact with people keeps them paying attention to what you are saying. When addressing several people during a meeting try not to just talk to just one person.

Notes
Always write things down and take notes during meetings especially if there are any actions or next steps that need to carried out afterwards.

Reading the room
Watch your body language but also notice non-verbal cues in other people, are they sitting up? Are they maintaining eye contact? Are they looking at their phone? Are they paying attention?

Q & As
Engage people with questions, you can clarify your bosses requests by repeating them back and perhaps phrase them a little differently just to make sure you understood exactly what was meant.

Summarise
Whether the original conversation was carried out in person or over telephone/video you can summarise the conversation in a quick email afterwards even if its just a few bullet points about any decisions made or further actions needed.

Email advice

Read and respond to an entire email.
Sometimes an email might ask several questions and make several points, respond to these emails methodically making sure you take the time to answer all the queries, this hopefully stops the email chains from growing too long. A good clear way to do this is use headings and subheadings in your reply email.

Assume best intentions.
We tend to fire off emails so quickly; there are times where we might come off a little abrupt and rude. When you receive an email that seems on the impolite side its best to assume the writer had the best intentions, I like to employ a “3 strikes and you are out” if the writer continues to have a rude tone… pick up the PHONE and speak to them directly, this can often clear things up quickly.

Telephone advice

Listen
I mean really listen, don’t speak over someone and don’t write emails at the same time, try to stay focussed on the call. The best way I find to do this is to take notes during a call and set my computer to a screensaver otherwise something will catch my eye and my attention.

Video conference advice
Video conferencing can feel a bit odd, especially when you can see yourself on the screen, but still try and apply the same advice as if the person was in a room with you, watch your body language, gesticulate and watch out for non-verbal cues on the other side of the screen. If they are looking at their phone or passing each other notes start asking them questions to reengage them.

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