Refining Your Professional Presence

First impressions count, especially in business situations where you want to convey a professional image and be remembered as serious.  Fair or not, most of us take about 10 seconds to form an impression of a new acquaintance.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that the immediate impression you make is a positive one.

Professional Presence

Consider your appearance

Incorporate dress and grooming into your strategic networking plan.  Before heading out the door to an event where you are likely to encounter current or prospective members of your networking circle, check yourself in a full length mirror.  Is your overall look a positive selling tool?  Does your appearance undercut your talents and abilities?

Never underestimate the impact of facial expressions and body language.  Introduce yourself with a smile and know that you are communicating with a sense of friendliness and approachability.  Maintain eye contact while speaking, speak in a friendly tone and keep an open posture with your arms at your side.

Shake hands with confidence

In business situations, a handshake often is your first contact point with another individual.  Your handshake says a lot about you and helps others form immediate and lasting impressions of you.    Consider the following:

  • Reserve handshakes for business situations. If you strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you at a soccer game or the individual waiting next to you to board a plane, chances are you won’t shake hands.  When you introduce yourself or strike up a conversation at a trade show, professional association meeting or fund raising event, you will want to shake hands.
  • Offer your hand equally to men and women.
  • Make eye contact, smile and exchange pleasantries, for example, “nice to meet you”, while you shake hands.
  • Make full hand-to-hand contact. Extend your entire hand – not just your fingers.
  • Offer a firm, friendly shake. A limp, lifeless shake projects a passive image.  Pump too aggressively and you will come off as domineering.  Large men should be particularly careful not to crush the hands of women and smaller men.
  • Reserve two-handed shakes for friends or for individuals for whom you have genuinely warm feelings.

Next week, for the final week of November, we will be giving you a free checklist of Conversation Do’s and Dont’s.  Make sure your OPSA Membership is up-to-date so you never miss out on all the information we share weekly!

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