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 it! I 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.