Signatures

I've noticed the majority of email messages I receive from business people do not include any contact information. If you're guilty of this, immediately open your email program and create an email signature for your messages. (If you don't know how to do this, try searching the help file for your email program. If you still can't figure it out, post the email program you are using here and I'll help you.)

Your signature line should be included at the end of an e-mail message you send. Your signature line should contain the following information: your name, company name, telephone and fax number, Web address, and either your business slogan or a catchy quote that represents you or describes your work. In my opinion, tt should not be a graphic or attachment.

Now WHY should you do this? To make it easy for people to contact you! I've spend more time over the past few months trying to hunt down phone numbers for people I wanted to talk to via telephone than you can imagine. A few times I just gave up (and I was ready to purchase somethng from the person but changed my mind because I couldn't  contact them direcrly).


Online Chats

Many VAs host or facilitate online chats for their clients. An online chat is a "live" interactive discussion via a Web based board. Discussion/Chat rooms are used by a lot of online conventions.

If you are asked to host or facilitate a chat be sure that you have good typing, spelling, and grammer skills. Decline the offer or find someone else to be the host if you feel your skills aren't refined enough to keep up with a lively discussion.

Here are a few tips for hosting a chat.

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CHAT HOST TIPS
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Before the chat type a few "welcome" message to send when people join the room.   Type a list of questions in a text document that you can ask the room that go with your topic to get conversation started. If you have specific information you would like to offer to people, have it ready in a text or word document also. Then copy the information and just paste it into the room to greet new arrivals, share information, or to stimulate chat.

You are the first person a chatter spots when they come into the room. Always introduce yourself to new arrivals.  After greeting the newcomer and a couple of times during the chat -- usually after several new people join -- post a short bio on yourself or the company you are representing.

Guide new arrivals toward the current topic and make them feel welcome. This is where the list of questions and other information that you have prepared in advance come in handy.

Try to draw visitors out of silence if possible, but don't harrass them or put them in an awkward spot. It's possible their typing skills aren't the best and they don't feel comfortable joining in the conversation.

I doubt you will get any complaints or rude comments, but if you do don't  take them personally and respond to them professionally.

Note: 3-12 people is a good number for a chat. Only about 3 out of 10 people will actually participate in the chat. The most important thing to remember if more people start chatting is to address their questions one at a time -- unless you are a power typist. :-)

If you do start getting a lot of questions, explain you will give everyone time to ask their questions and you will answer questions one at a time. Then don't get overwhelmed. Stay in control of the discussion. Start by answering the first question you received and work down from there. When you are caught up, you can ask if anyone else has any questions.

You may want to have text ready that explains the question and answer procedure. You probably won't need it, but it's better to be prepared.

And MOST important of all is to remember to have fun!


Autoresponders

A few days ago someone asked about autoresponders so I thought they probably aren't the only ones who aren't sure what they are or how to use them.

~-~Autoresponders, the different types, and how they work~-~

Autoresponders can be very helpful to business owners if used properly. There are three main types -- vacation/away, single reply, and sequential autoresponders. (I am sure depending on the company that there are other names for each of these.) Basically autoresponders are messages a sender receives automatically when they email a particular address.

Since this post would be way too long if I tried to explain all three, I am going to talk about them individually starting with the vacation/away autoresponders.

These message in their purest form are designed to notify the message sender automatically that the receiver is away from their office/computer for a period of time. Now they are used in many different ways, including:

~Acknowledging that your email has been received and someone will be in contact with you. (Hopefully someone follows up within 24 hours with a "live" reply.)

~Notification that that the recipient is out of the office for a period of time and gives alternate contact information in case of an emergency.

~Acknowledging that your email has been received, the person receiving it dislikes email -- prefers the telephone -- and to please call if you hope for an answer. (Yes, I did receive a response like this the other day and actually had to laugh at the person's honesty.)

The original message is saved in the recipients mailbox and when they returns to the office they download their messages (be sure to turn off the away message).

The only place I've discovered that offers the Vacation/Away Autoresponder Service is either my ISP or Web host.