AHA · Authors Helping Authors · Marketing

“Five Tech Skills You Must Know” ~ by Corey Smith

Contacts--from-email--screeI believe that we should learn how to effectively compete in the business world around us. In order to accomplish that, we have to understand how to use the tools around us.  I have always enjoyed learning new things. I am not necessarily an early adopter but I am definitely interested in learning and understanding technology earlier than the majority.

I believe that there are a few key technologies that every marketer should know how to operate in today’s marketplace. As an author, you are a marketer and you must understand this, too.

Before I share my list of the most important things to learn first, I want to demonstrate how this should work. My father-in-law is a retired farmer. He was a very successful farmer but I am confident he never used a computer. He never learned how to plug in a DVD player. But, he didn’t need to. He needed to understand the tools of his profession. He could fix and drive any tractor. He knew how to work with what he had and, more importantly, he knew how to figure out how to make things work that make a farm a success.

So, understand that these tools are important for people in business and marketing. It is simply not acceptable to say, “I don’t know how to do that.” You must know these very basic technologies to make it in today’s business environment. If you want to effectively market yourself in today’s environment, you must understand these very core technologies.

  • Email. You know (hopefully) how to check email. But I am amazed how many people fear to check the settings of their email or change their password. They don’t even know the name of the email application they use. Often times they don’t have a clue how to properly compose or properly format an email. Your email provider always provides your email settings. You should know how to check the settings and see if they match. When using Outlook or any other mail program, you should know how to go to the preferences for your mailbox and type in the settings provided. Don’t know the setting requirements? Ask. Moreover, you should know how to format your email and use salutations and signatures appropriately.
  • SkypeSkype. Being able to communicate quickly in any collaborative environment allows for greater efficiency. Instant messaging tools, like Skype, are important tools to facilitate communication. You may not use it on a regular basis, but you need to be familiar enough to be able to when the requirement arises. You need to know how to use instant messaging and video chat. Download Skype and connect with someone. Don’t know with whom to connect? contact me and I’ll let you practice.
  • Screenshots. Taking a screenshot of you computer screen is a very easy way to show people what you see. If you have a problem with your computer, you should be able to take a screen shot and send it off to others. There are myriad tools for both Macintosh and Windows… many are free. They allow you to mark the image up and covey your opinions quickly and easily. For Macintosh, you can go here or for Windows, you can go here — Windows XP or here — Windows Vista/7. You can even simplify the whole process, and get cool markup tools by spending a few dollars for Snag It (worth every penny).
  • File Sharing. It used to be, in order to share large files, you would have to have access and know how to use an FTP site. Now, file sharing is made much easier by tools that are readily available online. Never should you say, “I can’t email it because it’s too large.” You should never say, “Let me FedEx you a CD.” Tools like Copy.com make it very easy now. I use these applications and I can share large files, for free, without even inviting others to join up. If you are on a Mac, one of the easiest ways to share screenshots and files is with Droplr (I’ve never used it, but there is apparently a Windows Version, too.)
  • Microsoft Word. I’m not talking about how to type or how to choose bold. I’m talking about inserting images, tables, headers, footers and, most importantly, comments & edits. Formatting your Word documents properly can set you apart from others in your organization. Formatting of paragraphs, bullets, numbers and ensuring that it simply looks pretty will go a long way to adding credibility to the way you communicate. Being able to take a document from another then add edits and comments allow you to use the collaborative elements of Word to your advantage. (While you’re at it, learn Excel, too.)

These five areas of tech are basic and fundamental to being able to communicate in today’s online world. Don’t demonstrate your ignorance and not learn how to do these very basic things. You simply do not have the luxury of saying, “I don’t know how to do that.”

~~~~~~~~~~~Corey Smith is President of Tribute Media and Author of “Do It Right: A CEO’s Guide to Web Strategy”. His firm specializes in building websites for businesses, (including authors). Connect with him at About.me.

7 thoughts on ““Five Tech Skills You Must Know” ~ by Corey Smith

  1. Hi Corey.

    Useful points to be sure, but perhaps wrapping them up into examples where writers usually find themselves might have been more useful. With using Word, providing some links where the reader can get specific guidelines would be handy.


    1. Stefan,

      I deliberately chose not to include examples. Each person that hasn’t taken the time to learn will struggle with something different.

      When looking at something like Word, most of the problems are with the most basic of formatting. Most people demonstrate that they haven’t even tried to learn how to use indents, tabs, etc properly.

      My point in this article wasn’t to teach you how to do it but that you need to get it on your radar. If you are not actively working on to improve then tips aren’t going to be helpful at all. These basic tech skills are so critical, people (authors, students, business people, etc) need to actively learn and not passively look at a few examples.

      I recommend that you take a few minutes and look for your own examples. If you think they are important, feel free to add them to a comment here as a great way of contributing to the education of other authors.


    1. Danielle, I try to learn as many shortcuts as I can. When I’m working with someone and I use shortcuts they think I can work so fast… but the reality is the only reason I’m fast is because I don’t have to take time to get my mouse, go up to the menu then click… I can just keep my fingers on the keyboard and roll with it.


  2. I like it. I am a freelance editor and I come across some incredibly technologically challenged authors who think using a computer curtails their creativity.


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