Date posted: 21/06/2022 5 min read

The apps that boost your communication game

Good communication is an in-demand skill, but your route to clear messaging for humans can be helped with some apps and AI.

In Brief

  • Speech-to-text functionality saves you time typing, but review what’s written before sending it out.
  • Writing ‘robots’ such as Google’s Smart Compose, Office 365 Text Prediction, Wordtune and Rytr can assist with composition. Setting up templates is another time saver.
  • Training and explanatory videos are simpler to create with capture and edit apps such as Camtasia, Descript, Loom, Snagit and Tango.

It may surprise you to learn that while I love writing – and my tenth book on cloud accounting will be published this month – I’m not the greatest writer. As a chartered accountant, I have expert knowledge in my head. But communicating that knowledge so clients hear and absorb what I’m trying to convey, sometimes requires a spoonful of clarity.

These are the tools and steps I use to ensure that I deliver a clear message and an exceptional client experience.

Do you spend too much time typing?

I’m currently composing this using speech-to-text functionality. It lets you dictate your thoughts in real time and is easy and efficient – especially if you use a microphone headset for clear dictation.

You’ll find this functionality in both Google Docs (Tools > Voice typing) and Microsoft 365 (Home > Dictate).

I also have a Chrome extension called Voice in Voice Typing I use in other online areas. (I’m sure there are similar extensions for different browsers.) It’s a solid foundation to build from, although you must review your writing to ensure the punctuation and words have been typed correctly.

Another great way to avoid typing out the same thing over and over again is to develop templates. Email software, practice and project management tools all include templating options. Explore what you can do with Gmail and Microsoft Outlook, client onboarding tools including Ignition [formerly Practice Ignition] or GoProposal, and calendar booking tools such as Calendly, Timely, Acuity Scheduling, Microsoft Bookings.

You should regularly review, refine and update templates to ensure completeness, accuracy and brand consistency. Some people do such a great job of developing business templates they even productise and sell them.

Brainstorm with your personal writing robots

If you’re good at starting a sentence but slow to finish one, turn on G Suite Smart Compose or Office 365 Text Predictions. These tools use machine learning to complete your sentences. My experience is they suggest what I would have written even before I have consciously thought about it, speeding up the whole writing process.

If you find you can’t wrap up your thoughts succinctly, you could try Wordtune. Select a sentence, phrase or word, opt for a casual or business tone, and whether it should be shorter or expanded. Wordtune will suggest a list of options to choose from.

I also want to mention the AI writing robots that promise to write blogs, emails, social media and almost anything you can imagine. I’ve tried a few. If the writing is formula-based they can be helpful, but they’re not perfect.

I’m currently using Rytr. I filled in the relevant fields to suggest a title for this article and it generated several solid options. One I liked was Discover apps that will help you level up your writing and communication game; another, that didn’t make as much sense, was Energy-efficient headlights. I suspect these AI writers will improve over time.

Some solutions also have in their settings options to highlight bias, outdated terminology and disrespectful language, enabling you to embrace inclusion and diversity.

Useful tools for training resources

My business has a heavy training and education component, so one element of my client communication is explaining how to do something. People learn differently and using images helps some clients follow and understand instructions.

I use Snagit to capture, edit and share screen images. I prefer it over inbuilt snip and sketch tools, as I can add text. For example, I could add “Steps (1) (2) (3)” into the screenshot, indicating the precise actions to be taken.

You can create step-by-step documentation with screenshots (great for training purposes) using a product called Tango. Then, you can personalise the experience by recording a video message on your camera and desktop simultaneously with Loom.

I use Camtasia for recording and editing highre-solution training videos and Descript for audio and video editing. Of course, anyone who went through the past two years is probably familiar with Zoom for one-on-one or team virtual meetings or webinars.

My least painful steps for proofreading

I get it: reviewing your writing is tedious. Apps such as Grammarly and Hemingway App can be used to check your writing for common errors, clarity, engagement, delivery, readability and tone.

Use them to support your writing and learn from their advice, but don’t follow them blindly.

Also, don’t confuse yourself by using both side by side as they tend to overcook the output. I might drop the text in both solutions if I’m struggling with something I’m writing, but typically I’ll use just one.

If you’re having a bad day, Grammarly’s tone detector can alert you to grumpy writing so you can change the text and tone before sending. I’ll pop this article into Grammarly for a final check before I submit it to Acuity, where talented humans will do the last edit and review.

Listen back

You can also activate the text-to-speech functionality and listen back to what you’ve written. It’s easy to do this with Microsoft Word (Review > Read Aloud) and there are a few ways to do this in Google Docs (download a Chrome screen reader extension such as Screen Reader or ChromeVox and then go to Tools > Accessibility settings > Turn on screen reader support. )

Once you’ve activated the text-to-speech functionality, if possible, jump up and move away from the computer and lean in to listen. Within the settings there is the option to change the voice if that makes it more tolerable. Body movement and a fresh perspective can help you determine if your writing conveys the correct message.

Go beyond the apps

While I’ve mentioned many apps here, that’s not all I’ve done to build my skills. I’ve completed several writing courses with the Australian Writers’ Centre. I also attended my local Toastmasters group to practise communication and public speaking in front of a supportive audience with practical feedback. (If that piques your interest, consider joining the CA ANZ Toastmasters groups.)

From one accountant to another, I find it cathartic and liberating to be able to brain dump my ideas coherently. Through practice, process, AI and machine learning, it gets easier every day, and hopefully these robots can help you too to step up your writing and communication game.

“From one accountant to another, I find it cathartic and liberating to be able to brain dump my ideas coherently.”

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