4 Essential Business Skills You Need to Learn While You’re at University

While you are studying and have not yet started your professional hospitality career, you need to take advantage of the university environment and support system to learn as many transferable skills as possible.

Best way to learn anything is to practise doing it.

As I share with you the 4 Essential Business Skills you need, I will give you examples of things you can do right now, at university, to learn and develop those skills.

4 Essential business skills you need to have

  1. Writing emails

  2. Creating and delivering presentations

  3. Organising meetings

  4. Project management

But before we dive into them, let’s step back and look at the big picture.

At the bottom of it all lies communication. It’s all about getting the right message across to the right people, at the right time.

What is communication?

According to Dictionary.com, communication is:

the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs”.

It is the process of passing information from one source to another via written words, spoken words, images, or other visual formats.

Here is a great article on that if you want to read further on communication.

Everything is communication and communication is everything.

That said, let's start with the one that most people take for granted: writing emails.

1. Emails

Email is essentially the main communication channel at work these days, with both your colleagues and guests, which means that you need to know how to use it correctly.

The 3 things you need to know to write a good email:

  1. Who are you writing to?

  2. What are you trying to say?

  3. What do you want the person receiving the email to do?

Yes, it’s that simple, yet it’s easy to get it wrong. Let’s look into it.


The first step is the key to formulating an email. You need to know how the person likes to receive information to be able to get the response you want.

This is the most important part and if you are not sure and have no one to ask, be polite, respectful, and provide extra information.


The second step is to be clear in your subject line and your email body what the email is about.

The subject lines are tough to write, they need to be clear and brief. Enough to understand what the email is about and if it worth opening.

If your headline is not clear, the email may not even be opened!

Start your email strong with the key message of why you are writing this email in the first place. The reader needs to understand what you want or what the issue is straight away. Don’t dwell too long on describing things (or if you have to, present the information in an organised matter).

What to do

Finally, the recipient needs to be able to quickly scan the email and identify what you want them to do next. If it is not clear, it is unlikely that you will get what you want.

You will be left frustrated with them, without understanding why they are not being helpful.

Consider these examples:

Example 1:

[URGENT] Issue with content delivery is delaying campaign launch
Hi Boss name,
When trying to upload content to the web for the launch of the campaign, we encountered an issue which is going to cause a delay for the launch. The issue is… We are investigating the cause…. We are informing the stakeholders…
This may delay the launch of the scheduled campaign, we don't know by how long.
On top of what is being done to fix this, I suggest we do… Do you agree?
Thank you,

Let’s review this:

I know my boss doesn’t have much time for email so I make sure that my subject line has a clear topic they can identify when scanning their inbox.

The body of the email goes straight into the point: the issue in question and what impact it has. My boss needs to understand the challenge.

At the end, I clearly outline what I need my boss to do.

Make sure to have agreed to established etiquette, you shouldn’t send the same email to your colleagues, your boss, or a guest. Always consider cultural differences and boundaries.

Provide relevant information for the recipient.

Here are a few more examples of email subject lines for other situations.

  • [FYI] Q1 Report of guest feedback at The City hotel

  • [ACTION] Feedback on the copy for the Christmas newsletter

The use of the brackets [ ] is my personal preference in case of urgency, but it depends on who you are writing to.

In the following example, I am asking a colleague for their point of view.

Example 2:

Breakfast overflow on weekends
Hi Colleague Name,
We have analysed the situation of the breakfast overflow on weekends and derived a few alternative solutions. I would love your viewpoint on this because you have dealt with this before.
Solution A is…. The benefits are… the potential issues could be…
Solution B is… The benefits are… the potential issues could be…
Since our desired outcome is... I think that we should implement B.
What do you think?

Let’s review:

I need the receiver to provide their opinion on the two options A and B. I make sure I highlight why I think this person should share their point of view with me and make clear what each is.

I provide my viewpoint as well. They have the minimum required information for them to be able to provide their opinion.

Writing a professional email is not something you are going to get a lot of practice at university, unfortunately. This is something that is totally up to you to learn now, rather than later.

You need to create opportunities for yourself to learn this skill before you enter the workforce.

How to practise writing emails at university

Send emails to prospective employers and ask for a meeting or their opinion on the local market growth or latest hotel industry trends - be specific.

Email your professors with questions and meeting requests to discuss the courses, assignments or even just their viewpoint on future trends.

During an internship, find out if there is an opportunity to manage an inbox and respond to questions sent in.

2. Presentations

Creating and delivering presentations is something you do a lot at university, but it is not the same at work as it is at university. So make sure to make the most of it now!

Here is how the presentation style differs between the university and work.

The content of the presentation

At work, you need to get straight to the point, be very clear with the objective, deliver content, problems, and solutions in a structured manner.

Compared to academic studies, your work will not require you to do theoretical research based on academic papers and textbooks, but your work will require you to have evidence, facts, and references (real-life ones).

If you are proposing a change, you have to back it up with proof that the change will do on of the two things:

  1. solve an existing problem or

  2. result in a benefit for multiple stakeholders involved.

If the reason for your proposal is based only on that you think it is a good idea and you have no data to support your ideas, your proposal will not be considered.

You need to always make sure that the content on your slides is on point and does not have any “fluffy stuff” that is so popular at university.

(The presentation should be structured and has the detail that the audience you are speaking to wants to see, not the detail you want to present. Know your audience.)

Presenting your content

The way you speak when you present makes all the difference. You can have the most smashing content slides but still, miss the whole presentation if you do not deliver it well.

Your voice and message need to be clear.

Do not stumble.

Make sure you are prepared to present your content and take questions, i.e. know what you are talking about.

At university, you are in the best environment to practice your presentation skills, make the most of it, don’t shy away.

It is not going to get easier, it will only get more difficult.

Digital presentations

At work, unlike university, you are going to have to host digital presentations via tools such as Google Hangout, Webex, Skype, you name it.

The presentations done digitally are very different from the presentations you deliver in person.

The receivers often cannot see you, so the main communication tool you have along with your slides is your voice. (Or sometimes just your voice)

Leading the conversation with only voice can be harder than doing so when you are in person. When facilitating a discussion you need to be able to encourage conversation as well as lead it.

However, if you are just delivering information or content without creating an engaging conversation, it is easier. You can feel more relaxed as you can flex just one muscle - your voice.

But because people cannot see you, you have to articulate with your voice more and you cannnot see how they are actually paying attention to you.

Double whammy.