Saturday, August 23, 2014

Stand Out

What comes to mind when you think of Professional Image?” Is it a uniform, a stereotype, a brand, or something less tangible? My advice to you as entrepreneurs is that you need to consider your professional image as your personal “brand.” It can be far more than what you look like or are wearing. Yes, having nice skin, makeup, clothes, a good car or eye catching business cards help, but your reputation is on the line. (I hate to admit it but people do judge us by those things sometimes, as we often make a snap decision in the first few seconds.) It is said the first impressions we make occur within the 1st minute of meeting someone. It is advisable to review them before a business meeting or client appointment. Bear in mind these can apply to everyday situations as well.



Let's talk about scrutinizing your grooming (hair, make-up, cleanliness, etc.) Does your hair/skin (and if applicable, make-up) project the image you want? If not, maybe it’s time to consult a stylist for an updated hair-do or sit down with a make-up artist to create a different look. As one of my sales directors likes to say if your hair isn't “slammin,” cut it, dye it or buy more of it, but do something with itI can tell you from personal experience when your skin looks good you’ll radiate confidence. Now, Ireally don't want to know if you forgot to wash your face this week. All joking aside, good hygiene not only helps you to look your best but minimizes downtime due to illness. Were you even aware that your skin is one of the largest organs in the body and often times is your first line of defense against your environment? Please take care of it.


Now think about your ornamentation. Clothes, make-up, jewelry, watches, belts, handkerchiefs and shoes are all types of ornamentation.People definitely take these into account when making an initial judgment. I highly recommend getting some of your favorite outfits and accessories together and asking friends you trust what they think of when they see them. Purses and large earrings or jewelry can also indicate a lot to a new person they are meeting. Make sure that what you are wearing conveys what you want it to say to the people you are meeting for the first time.


Analyze your attire. Do your clothes project an appropriate personal image? For example, if you’re trying to cultivate an executive presence in a fairly formal industry and company, do you dress the part by wearing suits? If you want people to view you as creative, do your clothing (and jewelry) choices reflect your individual creativity? Personal shoppers and stylists are great resources to help you upgrade your wardrobe and overall ‘look.’


Those pesky 6 inches

The most important thing to do for giving a good impression is to set your intention. This is especially important before any kind of big event where you would be meeting a lot of people, like a conference, networking event or friend’s party. As you are getting ready or when you are driving over think about what kind of people you want to meet and what kind of interactions you want to have. This can be an incredibly grounding experience and works very well to focus on what kind of energy you want to have for your event.

It may seem a little dramatic, but I have a daily affirmation I say when I wake up. I won't go into it here but I firmly believe you draw to you what you put out in the world. Do you want a good day, a positive outlook on life, success and happiness?  Then think about those things.  Haven't you ever noticed your mindset when the weather turns bad or you get stuck in traffic? Doesn't it generally plummet? Don't worry about things out of your control, just control the things you can – your attitude is one of them.


People who go to cocktail events or mixers after having had a bad day typically continue to have a bad day. If you are in a depressed or anxious mood, others will pick up on this from your facial expressions, comments and body language. If you’re having a bad day, stay home! Otherwise, find a way to snap yourself out of your bad mood. For me, working out or watching funny YouTube videos before events often gets me in a more social, feel good mood. I even have an emergency cd/playlist of silly songs that I call my “plastic prozak” which once I've listened to for a few minutes generally lifts my spirits and takes my mind off whatever was distracting me.


Examine your attitude. I was taught your attitude determines your altitude (or level of success.) Do you smile when first meeting someone, even if you’re busy and have other things on your mind? Are you focusing on that person and giving them your full attention? If not, you might be harming your image. When I am with a client, it's not about me, it's about her. I imagine a sign over her head that says “make me feel important.” And I proceed to do just that.


Be interested and interesting. If you are truly interested in meeting people and are open to learning about who they are, they will get this in a first impression. We have all had the experience of meeting someone and knowing instantly that they were dragged here by a friend and are just waiting to get out the door and head home. When you are meeting people for the first time approach others with a genuine interest in who they are. This is often contagious and you will have better conversations and lasting connections when you are interested because they become interested.


I have found the key to this is to use my ears and mouth proportionally. Iknow I need to listen more than I speak. It allows me to learn something about the other person. I ask open ended questions. Sometimes depending on the situation, questions I want them to ask me back!

Review your verbal communication. Do you speak clearly, professionally and at an appropriate pace and sound level when first meeting someone? Ask a friend to role-play and look for ways you can modify your verbal communication to create an improved first impression.

Practice makes perfect. You should know what you want to get acrosswell enough that if your power point presentation fails, your printer won't work, or your cue cards end up all out of order that you can carry on with confidence.


Know your audience. Sometimes word choice is just as important as the message. If you're speaking to peers in the office as opposed to friends at the bar on a Friday night, I'm sure you're using a totally different vocabulary.  If your presentation is printed for distribution or display, be sure to spell check it first. Check your word selection for potentially offensive or inaccurate terms. (Better safe than sorry.)


The whole package

What you should take away from this is: look sharp, feel sharp, and be sharp. With time and a little teamwork, you will radiate confidence, and far outshine your competition. The goal should be that your personal brand and image sets the standard for all others in your profession.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

“What are you really saying?”

Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech, and apparently, 80% of what you understand in a conversation is read through the body, not the words. Just think about how you can look at a magazine advertisement or watch a foreign movie and still know how that subject is feeling. The perfect example would be watching a mime perform on the street. When he's not trapped in a box or walking against the wind, don't we generally know what's happening? There are many different types of nonverbal communication that make up what we commonly refer to as “body language.” Together, the following nonverbal signals and cues communicate your interest and investment in others. What is their face showing? Is it masklike and unexpressive, or emotionally present and filled with interest? The human face can be extremely expressive, able to express countless emotions without saying a word. And unlike some forms of nonverbal communication, facial expressions are universal. The facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust are the same across cultures. (Sometimes it can change the meaning of the words we are actually saying.) Since the visual sense is dominant for most people, eye contact is an especially important type of nonverbal communication. The way you look at someone can communicate many things, including interest, affection, hostility, or attraction. Eye contact is also important in maintaining the flow of conversation and for gauging the other person’s response. Is eye contact being made? If so, is it overly intense or just right? When you don't look someone in the eyes, it can signal deception or a lack of respect. Consider how your perceptions of people are affected by the way they sit, walk, stand up, or hold their head. The way you move and carry yourself communicates a wealth of information to the world. This type of nonverbal communication includes your posture, bearing, stance, and subtle movements. Gestures are woven into the fabric of our daily lives. We wave, point, beckon, and use our hands when we’re arguing or speaking animatedly—expressing ourselves with gestures often without thinking. However, the meaning of gestures can be very different across cultures and regions, so it’s important to be careful to avoid misinterpretation. We communicate a great deal through touch. Think about the messages given by the following: a weak handshake, a timid tap on the shoulder, a warm bear hug, a reassuring slap on the back, a patronizing pat on the head, or a controlling grip on your arm. Is there any physical contact? Is it appropriate to the situation? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. When we speak, other people “read” our voices in addition to listening to our words. Things they pay attention to include your timing and pace, how loud you speak, your tone and inflection, and sounds that convey understanding, such as “ahh” and “uh-huh.” Think about how someone's tone of voice, for example, can indicate sarcasm, anger, affection, or confidence. Does their voice project warmth, confidence, and interest, or is it strained and blocked? Don’t be caught doing some of these! Frowning or Scowling: Scowls and frowns, often unintentional and unconscious, communicate unhappiness and disagreement. Looking Down: In everyday interactions, it can make you look uncomfortable or self-conscious. Glancing At The Clock: Glancing at the clock or at your watch or even looking past a person who you're speaking with will communicate disinterest or arrogance. Slouching: Bad posture signals to others that you lack confidence and have poor self -esteem or low energy levels. Folding Arms: This stance creates a sense of being closed off and may signal to others that you are disinterested in them or don't buy into their message. Weak Handshake: A handshake that isn't firm will signal a lack of authority. One that is too firm could make you seem overly aggressive. Fidgeting And Touching Hair: Fidgeting and playing with hair or clothes can reveal an excess of energy, which signals discomfort or anxiety. Can I fix it? (Sure it's not terminal!) Here are some tips to help you keep your body language positive: Eye contact: Keep your head up and look the person who you are having a conversation with in the eyes both when they are talking to you and when you are talking to them. There is no need to stare them down and remember to blink and look away occasionally. Good eye contact lets others know that you are interested in the conversation. Posture: Be relaxed whether you are sitting or standing. Keep your back straight but not stiff and let your shoulders relax. It reinforces the idea you’re comfortable in your surroundings. Arms: Crossing your arms is the visual clue that you are turned-off by what is going on around you. Practice hanging your arms comfortably at your side or bringing your hands together in your lap to show others that you are open to what they are communicating. Hands: Talking with your hands is an easy way to incorporate gestures into your conversation but be careful not to make it a dance party. Emphasizing words with your hands can lead you to appear more credible and assured. Handshake: The handshake is one of the most important nonverbal communication cues because it can set the mood for the entire conversation. A firm handshake will give you instant credibility while a weak handshake will make you appear fragile. Take care not to crush the other person’s hand though. Giving someone a death grip will signal to them that you are a bully or overcompensating for something. Body language is a crucial part of first impressions. Often, simply being aware of your it can result in immediate improvements. Remember, what you communicate through your body language and nonverbal signals affects how others see you, how well they like and respect you, and whether or not they trust you. I encourage you to evaluate your own non-verbal communication and those of others a bit more. Start with something simple like shaking hands. I'd suggest that you practice with friends and family. Try shaking hands firmly and establishing good eye contact to ensure you aren’t doing anything that could damage a good first impression. Once you master these skills, you just might impress yourself!