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Your Personal Brand: How to make an Impact that counts
22 June 2011
You have seconds rather than minutes before someone decides if they will do business with you. Their first impressions will decide whether they think you are respectful and taking a company seriously. There are Five Essential Components of Image to consider: Hidden, Assumed, Visual, Experienced and Proven.
When you are assessing or being assessed, if the dress code suits, it answers the question about your professionalism or compatibility with the company (Visual Image.)
After that, it's manners that count. Business manners work on the premise that consideration towards your opponent or colleague will get you ahead (Experienced Image.)
People are pre-conditioned to develop expectations about a person even before they meet, so the right response is vital to taking that relationship further (Assumed Image.) That first impression depends a lot on what people already believe about you.
The impression you project also depends a lot on what you believe about yourself, your past experiences and what fear may be holding you back from presenting at your most confident (Hidden Image.)
All the Essential Components of Image require acknowledgement and action in order to project a Professional Image.
Expectations of dress will vary depending on the organisation you represent. People will be looking for you to conform to stereotypes associated with a job. A lawyer or chief financial officer will not be expected to dress like the creative director from an advertising agency and the showroom manager of a fashion PR company.
If you surprise by your appearance, you will add a further dimension they will try to make sense of. Knowing about these [cultural] expectations will help. If you want to impress management and foster an outcome in your best interests, remember their impressions are shaped by a whole range of beliefs which make them receptive to you.
There's no single message about nice shoes or wearing the right clothes. It's psychologically much more subtle than that. In the beginning, it's about not violating the norms and perceptions - \"the lawyer in a dark suit, the art director in a black sweater\". Think of Impression Management in additional to skills and knowledge to create a positive outcome in getting to the next step in your career.
When you are out to impress someone for the first time, do your homework, find out about the person or people you are going to meet, practice speaking at home, a firm handshake.
When it comes to First Impressions, the eyes meet and, though it's not deliberate, people make immediate, unconscious judgements about honesty and trustworthiness. To give you an advantage, this is the moment to look open and candid.
Non-verbal communication is really very important. You know if someone is interested in talking to you by eye contact, smiling and gestures. These are basic social beliefs.
People put a lot of value on cultural cues and if you aren't aware of them, be prepared to face difficulties.
We are in an era where the individual as much as the company is \"branded\" and people must consider their own \"brand management\".
Just as a company is judged by its office furniture, signage, merchandising and company cars, so too is the individual, who sends clear messages according to how he or she is dressed.
It may sound unappealing but it's called \"people packaging\". Business dress is a personal marketing tool, a gateway to non-verbal communication.
Often technically competent people commanding high dollars find themselves in a position where they have to sell the firm and be an ambassador. The issue is the credibility they can create in an instant.
To get the response you are looking for, you need personal confidence. By extension, that means the way you shake hands, carriage, eye contact and facial expression. The image should be organised, uncluttered, and reasonably classic, or if it's creative, carried off with personality.
Once we then make contact, by shaking hands with an appropriate degree of eye contact and personal space, it's about words and a confident vocal presence.
Within 10 seconds, all of that is going to work for or against you.\"
If you are preparing for a partnership interview, for example, it's not only your technical ability or the runs on the board that matter but the impact you make as to whether you will be assumed to be competent in managing people in a range of situations.
What can you do within your personality type to have an advantage? An introvert is not going to do something outside their comfort zone, but everyone needs to be able to reveal aspects of themselves to have others understand them and feel comfortable. Once somebody feels they know you, they are much more comfortable.
Ensure you bring yourself forward in the first moments of contact. It comes back to the physical presence.
The normal business environment doesn't provide the opportunity for people to talk about the impression they make without the threat of feeling they are revealing a weakness. Individual coaching can be very helpful providing an objective and supportive environment in which to gain constructive observations and suggestions.
Subtle changes have amazing effects. Once we are at ease with our impact, we can draw on a developed repertoire and enjoy the space to concentrate on the other person.
When you make others feel comfortable, you will become more aware of the person you are appealing to and perhaps talk at a different pace, or use less direct questioning.
You will no longer be concerned about the ‘Is he or she impressed by me?' issue when you've worked on developing rapport, and you will be well on the way to relationship building.
Good grooming is the essential basic, so invest as much time as you need in front of the mirror before you go out. Then forget about how you look. It's not smart to be fussing over yourself in a meeting.
When you are confident about your appearance, offer a handshake - not clammy, not too tight - because it is becoming a standard gesture when people meet for the first time. It establishes goodwill.
Be animated and enthusiastic. Don't look someone up and down; it's off-putting, although it happens a lot in the fashion business.
Body language is important; sit without being tense, look forward, show vitality and enthusiasm, but don't be calculated about it. There are some things you cannot fake.
It’s difficult to give a formula about manners, but there are simple considerations to others. Don't come on too strong as it's exhausting to others. Talking over people is inconsiderate, as is holding the floor, which doesn't allow other people into the discussion. Be confident enough to let someone else have a point of view. Some people talk all the time to ward off the other person, which is annoying and frustrating. In the long run, whether you keep your promises and deliver over time will be what counts most (Proven Image.)
Personal presentation can undermine or establish your credibility, especially at the senior level. If you are lacking, it brings your credibility into question. Many people gain an advantage on their competitors, not because they are any better qualified for the job but because they present themselves as if they are. Give yourself the edge by managing the 5 components of Your Image.