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August 28, 2019

Labor Day Small Talk: Dos and Don'ts With US Counterparts

Where as most countries in the world commemorate Labour Day (UK Spelling) on May 1, we, in the US commemorate the day on the first Monday of September (In 2019, the date will be Sept. 2). While this day is not really used to historically commemorate the true meaning of the day anymore, many in the US see Labor Day (US Spelling) as the unofficial last weekend of summer (Conversely, Memorial Day, the last Monday of May, is seen as the kickoff of summer holidays.). 

When working on a global team with US Americans, it makes sense to make small talk around some of the hot topics of the season. Some of those topics are listed below. 


Mesa Arch, Canyonlands, at Sunrise (Photo: Krishna Kumar)
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands, at Sunrise (Photo: Krishna Kumar)

Last Summer Hoo-Haa
Hoo-ha is a slang word meaning 'fuss.' In this case, it means the last fun outing of summer. While school and college students across the US have started going back to school since the second week of August, not all schools are back in session  yet. By two or three days after Labor Day, all students across the country should be back to class. So, for some families, this is considered the last summer holiday or long weekend. For those families living in school districts that are starting a few days after Labor Day, they may decide to take a longer vacation, maybe starting the week before. So, some of your colleagues may take an extended holiday this time of the year.

Is it acceptable to talk about holiday plans with Americans?

Sure, if we talk about it in a general way, Americans are happy to talk about their holiday plans. If you're just starting off a relationship with a US counterpart, do not add relationships into questions. Keep questions general. For example:
Don't: Will you be going away for the long weekend with your wife and kids? 
Do: Do you have any plans for the long weekend

Feel free to ask general follow up questions after they return from their vacation.

Don't: How did your kids like the Labor Day weekend trip? (You can ask this IF your colleague started the conversation and talked about his/her children in advance.)
Do: How was the outing last weekend?

Can I ask about prices of things?
In general, we do not talk about prices of things with our US counterparts. However, talking about, or better yet, complaining about, gas prices seems to be something most people talk about. 

Typically, gas prices are high for Labor Day because people tend to be on the roads. However, this year, in 2019, news outlets claim Labor Day weekend gas prices will be lower than usual, but may increase after the holiday depending on how the hurricane season pans out. In the video below, the commentator says the gas prices will be cheaper by about a quarter. A quarter is 25 cents. Learn more about American money and coins here.



Small Talk Do's and Don'ts:
Typically, when it comes to talking about prices of things, as noted earlier, we don't tend to ask directly about it unless we are comfortable with that person. Else, I'd typically wait to see if they broach the topic first, then talk about it generally, maybe in terms of news stories. I wouldn't ask them about gas prices in terms of their personal budget, for example. 

Don't: I heard gas prices can be high for Labor Day weekend. What do you typically budget for gas on your trips?
Do: Earlier, you mentioned about gas prices. Yeah, I heard gas prices can be increased for holiday weekends in the US. What do you think about that?

Traffic and Driving 
If your colleague is driving any distance and leaving from any metro area in the US, it's highly likely they will get caught in a traffic snarl on the way out of town or the way back. While most people look forward to getting to their destination and relaxing or enjoying, not everyone would enjoy the traffic jams on the way out or way back home. We can talk about this with colleagues, or possible routes they may take to avoid those congested areas.

Small Talk Do's and Don'ts: 
Here are a list of questions you CAN ask: 
When do you plan to leave? I heard that traffic can be crazy when leaving big cities on holiday weekends.
I heard that there are usually a lot of traffic jams when people leave on holiday weekends. Do you have any special routes you take to avoid traffic jams?
Oh, you are leaving on Saturday morning instead of Friday night? That sounds good, as I heard that traffic can get back up for hours if leaving the Friday of the long holiday weekend! 
It's nice you will be going out with your family this weekend? Who usually does most of the driving? 


Where to go and what to do 
Of course, if your colleague is going out of town for the weekend, it's completely OK to ask them what they are doing or where they are going in general terms. Here are some pictures of a few things my husband and I have done the last few years during Labor Day weekend in Utah.

In September 2017, when we stayed in Moab, Utah, we stayed in an RV and not a hotel. If you go to Moab, you can find this on Airbnb under FUNSTAYS. We highly recommend them. We have stayed in three different RVs they rent. They are fully furnished, even with kitchenware so you can cook your own meals.



Staying in an RV - Labor Day Weekend in the US


Staying in an RV - Labor Day Weekend in the US


Staying in an RV - Labor Day Weekend in the US


Staying in an RV - Labor Day Weekend in the US

Author, Jennifer, and husband outside Moab, enjoying the red rocks!


We have made Moab, Utah our go to place for the last few years for Labor Day weekend due to the Moab Music Hike. This is a very unique experience where concert goers meet at the local school in Moab, get on a bus, go to an undisclosed location, take an easy less than mile hike into a desert amphitheater and listen to live classical music. I also recommend this experience. All proceeds to go music education in the area.


Check out the site for the Moab Music Festival. Purchase your tickets as soon as they go on sale in April to secure your spots! 

Moab Music Festival - Music Hike 2017



Moab Music Festival- Music Hike 2018

Note: Some Americans do not want to go anywhere, and just prefer to stay home and do yard work, home improvement projects, or just relax. Some who stay home and just relax may call that a 'staycation.'

Small Talk Do's and Don'ts: 
Don'ts: Where are you going with your family on Labor Day weekend?
Do: Doing anything fun or going anywhere for Labor Day?
Do: What do you normally do on Labor Day?

What do you plan on doing for the Labor Day weekend? What tips do you have to help others with their Labor Day weekend travel planning? 

Jennifer Kumar, author of this post, has lived in India for about 10 years. She provided coaching and training to your offshore teams to build effective working relationships across global borders. See our programs on virtual meeting management and personal coaching to build consultative and communication skills for English as Second Language speakers working on development teams interacting with native English speakers.


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August 6, 2019

A Disruptive Idea in the Sharing Economy

Would you be interested in pooling your money with your friends and family to save money on everyday services like cell phone plans, online subscriptions, dog walking, lawn mowing or other services?

If you could do this, you would not only be able to reduce your reoccurring expenses, but possibly be able purchase services and luxuries you may not typically be able to afford. Does this sound tempting to you?

Getting IN the Bubble has Benefits
In the burgeoning sharing economy, the yet to launch app, Bublenet is stepping in to provide a platform to make these kinds of financial transactions easier to manage. According to Muthukumar, the CEO of Bublenet, Millenials, immigrants, students and other groups are already part of this informal ecosystem. Bublenet will provide an app to make this process easier for these individuals to share payments among themselves, regardless of how far away they live from each other (within the US).

The idea behind this is that when individuals buy a service, it is more expensive than if a group could get together and potentially purchase the service in bulk, reducing the rate. The most well known example of this that is already somewhat common place, is purchasing mobile phone plans and sharing the cost among friends (the other examples listed above will come with time). For those already participating in this, they could use the app to connect with others whom they already know and trust. The group leader would use the platform to collect each individual’s portion of the bill, transfer the money from the app to their personal bank account, then personally pay for the service outside of the scope of the app.

In the initial stages, Bublenet will only bring together known individuals to use the platform to collaborate, collect and manage payments within the group, free of cost. In future roll-outs, Bublenet will connect groups directly to service providers, with lists of deals and promotions groups can sign up for through the app, eventually also using the platform to pay the service provider directly. In future stages of the app’s development, groups will be required to pay a low yearly subscription fee (the current estimate is USD $1 per month per group). This makes this app different from others that appear to be similar, because Bublenet is not meant for a one time sharing of expenses, but an ongoing, possibly monthly sharing of expenses. 

See Muthu pitching Bublenet at 1 Million Cups &
Sustainable Startupss in Salt Lake City, Utah



Bubble Net to Bublenet?
So, how did this app get it’s name? Muthu and his partner Gopi really enjoy going whale watching in Alaska. When watching humpback whales, one can view a unique feeding pattern called bubble-net feeding. In this process, humpbacks which are usually solitary feeders, come together as groups to catch more fish in a shorter period of time. One can say a similar concept can be applied to how people typically purchase services, and if they are then bought together as a group, possibly it will be easier to consume more in a short period of time with less effort (and less cash). One may then wonder why is Bublenet spelled as “buble” and not “bubble.” Well, we can simply blame the fact that the domain of bubblenet was already taken. In lieu of that, “bubble” was changed to “buble.”

Getting Out of the Bubble Has Benefits, Too
When I spoke at more length with Muthu, I asked him about his experience in the startup ecosystem in the US and any advice he may have for any other newcomers to the US about starting up something in the US. Muthu notes that especially in Utah and in Salt Lake City, he finds the startup community to be very vibrant and extremely helpful to one another. He utilizes space in the coworking space kiln. He says that kiln holds a wide variety of events that support startups and also provide for networking and even a platform for pitching and possibly getting funding. He says that to be successful in the US, it’s important to actually come out of one’s bubble and talk to others. He feels that some newcomers to the US can be shy and stick with those they are familiar with, usually sticking with the bubble of others from their own community ‘back home.’ Especially for those newcomers in the US, who do want to startup a company or become an entrepreneur, Muthu stresses the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and talking to a lot of different kinds of people. He believes in networking and meeting a wide range of people as a key to success and learning. In the US it’s not about what or who you are (your status, per se) but it’s about who you know. The stronger your network is, the stronger and more confident you will become.

It is with this continued momentum Bublenet will move forward. To keep up with the latest developments with Bublenet, check out their website at bublenet.com. 

Keywords: Money saving tips, FinTech, Save by Sharing, Group Sharing Service, Sharing Social Commerce, Sharing Economy, Peer to Peer

July 21, 2019

English Phrases to use in Client Demos and Meetings

Let’s think of phrases and conversational connectors you can use to make your client demos more interesting to your clients and participants (and yourself!). While it’s important to showcase your technical expertise, sticking only to the technical aspects can be dry and boring to your listeners, especially if they aren’t technical (like me!), but, even if they are technical. 

Benefits of using phrases:
  • Makes the presentation more interactional, conversational and “alive”
  • If you are a fast speaker, these phrases will naturally help the conversation “slow down
  • Improve rapport with clients
  • Boosts your confidence
  • Boosts client’s confidence in you, your team, your company
  • Increases customer service and makes the client feel good, too
Places to use phrases:
  1. At the beginning (introduce yourself and/or the topic, reason for demo)
  2. At the beginning and end of each section of the demo
  3. During each section – aiding the listeners to understand your navigation on the screen
  4. To summarize/wrap up
  5. Questions and Feedback
  6. Small Talk/End of the demo

Examples of Phrases
This list is meant to be a start of creating your own list. It is not exhaustive. Note, I have tried to adapt the phrases into a technical discussion. I am not technical, so excuse the mistakes in the technical parts. Please feel free to adapt those terms accordingly.

1. Beginning of a Demo
  • Hello, (name), we are on the call today to discuss the updated features of the app as discussed in our last stand up meeting.
  • Good morning. As we get closer to deployment, we want to demo a few features we have made easier to use after we fixed a few bugs recently.

2. Beginning or End of a Section
  • Let’s now take a look at the log in feature of this app….. here you can see where we log in, enter the passwords and find the lost password link. I’ll walk you through how this works, and the security features we have installed based on your inputs.
  • As we wrap up this section on the payment gateway, I know your team had some concerns about security. With the updated we have installed, we trust you would feel more comfortable. What are some of the thoughts or feedback you have after seeing these new features?
Note: When asking a question to the group or asking for feedback, wait for about 20-30 seconds for an answer. These 20-30 seconds will feel like an eternity. After this 20-30 seconds, you could say, “I know there’s a lot to think of here.. I’ll wait a few more seconds to see if anyone would like to add or ask anything before going on to the next section.”

Assure you start a log of commonly asked questions and answers you can refer to, especially useful for topics you frequently demo.

During Each Section
While many of your meeting participants may be seeing the screen as you navigate it, some may not, or some may find it hard to see the mouse/cursor depending on their age/eyesight and how the cursor shows up on the screen. Try to narrate in such a way that even those that may be only listening to the demo on the run (on the way to work, or in a place they can’t watch the screen or are using a mobile to participate in the meeting and not a laptop), they can follow without seeing the screen.
  • As I mouse over each of the menu options, you will be able to see how the color changes from green to blue. These colors were chosen based on your inputs in our last meeting. Looking at the options in the tracker section of the app, when we click on the tracker for X feature, there will be a popup that will show the information the student will need to pay their tuition for the current semester. They can touch anywhere outside of the popup on the screen to close that pop up. (Note, instead of saying ‘user’ try to use the title of the type of person using the app- such as ‘student,’ ‘customer,’ ‘guest,’ or any other term as identified by your client and their business. Try always to talk in the client’s language wherever and whenever you can.

To summarize/wrap up

  • “We have now reviewed all the updates for this demo, which include….”
  • “While this has been a short demo, we have covered a lot of ground today, including….”

Questions and Feedback
  • “Now that we’ve gone through all the updates and summaries of today’s discussions, does anyone have anything to add or ask as we come to a close today?”
  • “While today’s demo was pretty straightforward, I just wanted to assure if anyone has anything else to add or if anyone has any questions that I could address as we wrap up today…”

Small Talk/End of the demo
  • Thank you everyone for attending the demo today. I know it’s a busy time of the year for your team. This project is just as important for us as it is for you to get it out on time. We appreciate your time today. (Note: One can never say "thank you" enough to a US American.)
  • Let’s wrap up today! I know our next demo will be in about three weeks, I see it on the calendar for (date…). Until then, what is everyone up to for this weekend?

The English phrases shared in this post should be a good start to helping you make your demos more interactive with your clients. Of course, many of these phrases would require some adapting depending on your particular situation. Feel free to get in touch with us to help you or your team to improve your presentation skills in stand up meetings, demos and other stakeholder related meetings. We specialize in helping your offshore development teams provide outstanding client facing and customer service skills to your foreign clients and virtual team members, particularly in the US.





Related Posts:
Spoken English Tips: Moving from Small Talk to Business Talk 
Tips for being crisp, yet detailed in English 
We Delivered On-Time to the Americans: They Did Not Seem Happy- Why?  

July 17, 2019

Business English Idioms and Synonyms for “Hurry and Finish”

American English Idioms about Deadlines
Working with Americans can be confusing at times due to American’s use of idioms or phrasal verbs. Idioms and phrasal verbs are strings of simple words when put together have a figurative meaning. 

In an earlier post, we looked at some idioms about time and disagreement. In this post we will look at some idioms that will commonly be used when talking about finishing a project in a rush, or hurrying to finish as the team approaches a [new or established] deadline. 

May 30, 2019

How US Clients Request Meeting Times & How To Answer/Decline

In special cases where meetings are high priority, urgent, or scheduled or rescheduled based on our availability simply pressing no on a meeting invite is not the ideal way of declining such requests. While there are many different kinds of meeting requests and refusal responses, let's take a look at one example while applying strategies that can be used to decline any meeting in a collaborative, professional way. 

The client wants to meet only with you or maybe with a few other stakeholders, but you are a key player in this meeting. The client offers you a few different meeting times, and you aren't yet sure which one fits into your schedule. How do you respond? 

Step 1: You Receive and Read the E-mail
Collaborating and negotiating meeting times is an art form!
Collaborating and negotiating meeting
times is an art form!
Sample e-mail (you receive this on a Monday morning): 

Sini, 

Greetings. Hope you are well.
We would like to plan an additional status meeting this week to discuss some of the  approaching deadlines. I have listed below a few times I am free to meet with you. Please confirm which one you can attend.

Tuesday, January 3, 5pm IST
Tuesday, January 3, 7:30pm IST
Wednesday, January 4, 4:30pm IST

I'll be looking forward to your confirmation as soon as possible.

Regards,

Frank (US Client)


How to Answer this Kind of Request

Take note that the client would respond to confirm only ONE of the suggested times (if he or she offers two solutions, most likely they are prioritized). If you get a request like this NEVER request the client to set aside all times, chose only one. It's like a multiple choice test, choose the best of three and confirm that. Once confirmed, that is the set meeting time.


Step 2: Considering a Response
How do you respond when you read this Monday at 9am when you enter the office? The problem is that you are not yet sure when you can meet. Do you let the client know you're not sure, or wait until you have a time confirmed?

Sometimes the problem with waiting to confirm a time is that you will not be able to confirm the time until Tuesday, and then a whole business day has passed without communicating with the US client. This will make the client uncomfortable, nervous and will make him think you are not being responsible in attending to your e-mails. This will not build trust. It is not a good idea for rapport building with US clients. (This can also be the case for any Indians onsite with clients as they will need to see clients directly at the office. Respond as proactively with your onsite contacts as you would directly with the US client.)

Answer the email immediately (they will see the time stamp) with your tentative status.

Example response sent Monday at 9am. (Respond by hitting "reply" and double checking the subject line for accuracy.)

Frank,


Happy Monday! Hope you had a nice weekend.


I am glad you emailed me to initiate this meeting. Our team does have a lot of updates to share.


My first reaction is to choose Tuesday, January 3rd at 7:30pm. I will confirm this by the end of the business day today.


Thank you,
Regards,

Sini

Sini will need to respond to this email thread once again at the end of the business day whether or not the meeting is confirmed.

Step 3: Responding with Confirmation or Changes

-Meeting time confirmed-  (Sent Tuesday morning, time stamp 9am.)

Frank,

Good day. I am writing back again to confirm the meeting. We shall be ready on the conference call tomorrow, Tuesday, January 3 at 7:30pm. I will look forward to seeing the agenda.

Thank you.
Regards,

Sini

-Meeting time not confirmed-- (Sent Tuesday morning, time stamp 9am.)

Frank,


Good day.

I was discussing this meeting with the other colleagues who will have to attend, and they are also confirming the time. As of now the time - Tuesday, January 3rd at 7:30 is still tentative. I will write back to confirm or deny this by tomorrow morning Indian business time.

Regards,
Sini

Sini will need to write back to confirm or deny the meeting 9am Indian time the next business morning. If the meeting is confirmed, the answer is straightforward. If it is not, confirm the third time given, or suggest another time. It's better, though to accept other times originally given than adding new times.


What NEVER to do
NEVER avoid responding if you don't know when to meet. ALWAYS respond to these emails in a timely way (within a few hours of seeing it). The clients are taking the time to ask for your time. This is a serious request for an American. They will wait in anticipation for your response. If there is no response, they will think you simply are not reading or caring to respond to your emails. This does not set a good impression.

Conclusion
The lesson in this email is to proactively keep in touch with your US counterparts or points of contact in the US to keep communication flowing regularly. We provide tailored coaching to your offshore teams on email skills, meeting management with US clients, working on cross-cultural virtual teams and more. Contact us to discuss further.


Related Posts: 
Things to NOT do in business e-mails
Avoid doing these things in e-mails with US counterparts
Declining Holiday Invitations, Party Invites from US Americans 




Networked blogs link: http://networkedblogs.com/TMuQo
Updated July 2015, May 2019 

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.