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Business Communications 1A: Introduction

Legal Administrative Assistant
Career Pathway Course Units

Unit 1: Communicating Professionally in Today’s Workplace

Just as we need water and air to support all life on Earth, communication—in various forms—is essential to support the activities of every business or not-for-profit organization. Workplace communication is what enables work to get done. In today’s work environment, where many teams are now functioning virtually, communication often happens via various channels, sometimes at the same time. To succeed in the world of work, you’ll need to master not just speaking and writing but also the use of an ever-increasing number of digital tools. As communication becomes more and more complex, it’s also becoming increasingly important to consider the ethical implications of the way you share ideas and information with others.

Unit 2: Use Your Ears and Eyes to Tune In

When we think of communication, we tend to focus on the sending side: what we want to say and how we’ll convey our meaning to our listeners or readers. We often overlook the role of our audience in interpreting, and therefore shaping, that meaning. But the audience’s part in the communication process is just as important as the sender’s. In fact, the key to successful business communication is to tune in to your audience as closely as you can so you can adapt your message to their interests and level of understanding. In live conversation, active listening enables you to screen out distractions so you can hear what your audience is truly saying, through both their words and the way they use their voice. In addition, paying close attention to body language gives you additional insight into what your audience is thinking and feeling, even if they’re not putting all their thoughts and feelings into words.

Unit 3: Speaking Like a Professional

Imagine you’ve just been hired as the summer intern for a local start-up. It’s your first day on the job, and as you walk into the office, with its neon-green walls and exposed ductwork, you wonder: How will I greet my boss? That’s an important question to ponder because conversation in the workplace follows certain norms (standards) that don’t necessarily apply outside a professional context. Every workplace is different, but every workplace is also a professional space, where certain standards of behavior are expected. Part of mastering the art of business communication is learning to adapt to those standards. They affect all spoken communication, from informal conversations with colleagues to team meetings and formal presentations.

Unit 4: Communicating in Groups & Teams

The world of work depends on teamwork. Even when people perform activities that seem to be solitary, such as writing or data entry, those activities form part of a team agenda. That means one of your most important skills in the workplace will be your ability to collaborate, and a core part of collaboration is communication. Great team players understand team dynamics—the way team members serve different roles and interact with one another. They also experiment with emerging collaboration technologies, embrace diverse perspectives, and practice problem solving and innovative thinking.

Unit 5: Digital Exchanges

Much of the “conversation” that occurs in the run of a business day happens through written communication rather than the spoken word. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic that started in the spring of 2020, phone calls and hallway conversations were moving into email and instant messaging. Now that so much of business is conducted in a virtual space, these text-based communication tools are becoming even more important. Fortunately, many of the great speaking skills you’ve started to develop transfer easily into the digital realm. The key is to recognize how different media and technology tools affect messages so you can make smart, ethical communication choices.

Unit 6: Planning Business Presentations

Spoken communication makes business happen through many informal kinds of conversation—face-to-face discussions, meetings in person or over the web, phone calls, and emails and other kinds of digital exchanges. Many business situations also involve some type of oral presentation, which is an opportunity for an individual or team to convey ideas and information in a formal, structured way. In most contexts, a business audience now expects that a presentation will include some kind of a slideshow. This complex form of verbal and visual communication tends to require a lot of preparation, often including various forms of research.

Unit 7: Creating Awesome Slide Decks

Fifty years ago, any young person entering the workforce was expected to know how to write a formal business letter and format it according to the conventions of the day. Now, business letters have become rare documents (unless your job involves a lot of work relating to contracts or other legal matters), and employers have a whole new set of expectations concerning communication. They’ll assume you know how to use a suite of electronic communication tools, including slide presentation software. To craft compelling slide decks, you must learn to think like a graphic designer so that you present your ideas and information through visuals as well as words.