Projecting a professional image
The Importance of a Positive First Impression
It is a strange fact of life that when we meet people for the first time we quickly make assumptions about them through the use of our senses.
“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression”.
What do we usually sense?
Generally, in the business context, when we meet a smartly dressed person, rightly or wrongly, we usually form a positive impression of that individual. If they look tidy and well organised we tend to make the assumption that they will operate at work in the same manner. However, when we meet somebody, for the first time, who is scruffy and untidy, we usually think very differently.
See if you can think of it this way; you are your presentation. What impression will your audience form of you as you begin your presentation? Be aware that you can influence that impression and build this into your planning and preparation.
Positive use of energy and enthusiasm is infectious. People are generally attracted to positive and enthusiastic people, whatever the subject they are presenting. Cultivate an interesting presentation style, making the most of your natural personality, and you will command attention for even the most routine subject.
Clarity and Direction
People are more willing to listen when you know which direction you are going in and what you are trying to achieve and can communicate it to your audience. It is important to let your audience know what your objectives are, and how you intend to achieve them.
Career Tips for Success
• Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.
• Start your success programme by choosing ONE specific area to improve first, (e.g. posture, gestures, voice, etc.)
• Add impact to your voice by speaking in your lowest comfortable pitch.
• To be more persuasive, talk slightly faster than normal.
• Smile WHEN you are pleased, not in order to please.
• Come to meetings prepared to make at least one comment, and state it early in the meeting. (To help you prepare, ask for the Agenda in advance.)
• Personal Publicity – write a weekly or monthly progress report to your boss to make your work stand out.
• Don’t be against an idea unless you can be FOR something else.
• Increase rapport by subtly mirroring people’s body postures and using their language patterns, especially their frequently used metaphors.
• Focus on your allies – the ones who give you knowledge, support, money or promotions.
• If you make a mistake, admit it, then outline how you intend to either (1) fix it or (2) ensure it won’t happen again.
• Rid your speech of hedge phrases (sort of), empty adjectives (lovely) and tag questions (isn’t it?).
• Take responsibility for your responses to situations by using ‘I’ statements, e.g. “I’m upset” rather than “you upset me” which projects accountability.
• Set specific goals, commit to them, believe in them – and then experience them coming to fulfilment.
Reputation & Visibility
Recent research across a large number of organisations shows that there are three factors determining whether someone is promoted or not. The most influential factor is visibility or exposure. The contributing factors are made up in this way:
• Doing the job - 10%. Your performance rating and how good you really are at your job and its tasks and responsibilities
• Image and personal style - 30%. How you come across, your way of getting things done, your attitude. If these don't fit - you don't get the job!
• Exposure and visibility - 60%. People who know you, what kind of reputation you have, your contact and achievements.
Eight Ways to Raise Your Profile
1. Be well presented. Project an appropriate and positive professional image. Be consistently well dressed and well groomed. This has the doubly positive effect - making you feel good as well as promoting a positive response from others.
2. Be well informed about the organisation, about your role and function and about your specialism. Make sure you are up to date.
3. Volunteer. Volunteer to do the kind of task that gets you noticed. Giving presentations is a good example, as is reporting back from group discussions. You could also chair a meeting or make a speech at a retirement or leaving party.
4. Get into print. Get used to the idea of publishing what you do. Try writing a short weekly or monthly report to your manager. Contribute to specialist journals. Contribute to the in-house newsletter. Write a report on a course attended - share your learning with others.
5. Network. Learn the skills of getting to know people, keeping in touch and making conversation at functions. Join appropriate associations and go to the meetings!
6. Use your business card. Make sure you always have a supply of business cards with you. Stickers with your name and address on won't do!
7. Invest in some photographs. Have a set of professional photographs taken. Use them for conference programmes when you are invited to speak and to accompany articles in professional journals.
8. Learn to give good presentations. Even if you are experienced, commit time to re-train and update. Everyone can get into bad habits.
For more presentation skills, check out our "Presenting With Impact" instant download training package.