Professional presence is the combination of the verbal and non-verbal signals you are broadcasting. Impressions are formed quickly; so, take charge of the messages you are consciously and unconsciously sending. Remember the ABC’s of first impressions to get started.
Attire: What you wear is often seen as reflection of who you are. Are you polished? Are you groomed?
Body Language: How you express yourself is as important as what you say. Does your demeanor amplify or detract from your message?
Communications: The stories you choose to share are what enable you to form relationships and build authentic human connections. Are you engaged and engaging?
Studies show it takes only 7 seconds to make 11 impressions, so every detail counts.
Here is a checklist of things to do right before you walk into a room in order to sail through those first 7 seconds with a new person.
In private before going into a room, check your:
- Hair: Make sure your hair looks neat. It is easy to get windblown on the walk or drive over, so take that extra minute to tame any flyaway strands with a brush or gel. If you have facial hair, make sure it is well groomed.
- Makeup: If you are wearing makeup, take a moment to make sure that it has not smeared and does not look overdone. Use pressed powder to take any shine off of your forehead and nose. Freshen up your lipstick.
- Hands: Since you are likely to be shaking hands, make sure you wash yours before you meet with others. You do not want to feel clammy and you certainly want to make sure your nails look clean.
- Breath: Fresh breath is a must. Even if you did not eat an onion and garlic bagel on the way over, you should make sure your breath is pleasant. A travel sized mouthwash or a mint can work last minute magic. And speaking of smells, make sure the rest of you smells pleasant as well. Avoid the urge to overuse cologne or perfume.
- Clothing: At this stage of the game, you have already made your wardrobe choice – so the goal is to make yourself as neat as possible. Make any adjustments necessary to make sure your clothes are tucked in, your tie is neat, and your shoes are clean. Keep in mind that little things matter, so check each detail in the mirror.
- Accessories: You will likely be carrying stuff with you to an interview, whether it is your portfolio, a briefcase, a purse, a computer bag, your phone, or some combination thereof. The trick is to get all of your accessories neatly tucked away so you are not juggling your things when you walk in. You will want to have hands free to shake hands, pull out a chair, etc. So, do what you can to make sure you look like you have got your stuff under control.
When you walk in a room, remember the big three:
- Smile: People like being around pleasant and nice people. A warm smile can remove tension and create a positive and welcoming atmosphere.
- Eye contact: Good eye contact shows you are engaged and confident. Look others in the eye to show you are interested in who they are and what they have to say.
- Handshake: Most professional introductions begin with a handshake; so, make sure yours is professional. Avoid the dead fish, fingertip only, or bone crusher handshake techniques!