I just came back from a large 2 day conference that offered a great opportunity to network with others in my field. The location was great, I met lots of interesting people and left with some new ideas. As I perused the conference center and participated in various round-table discussions, I began to notice the different techniques men and women used to introduce themselves. In this type of setting, speaking with confidence and ease is key to establishing a strong first impression. In this post, I offer some tips on how to maintain a powerful presence and communicate with confidence. While I am not a fashion guru, I do offer some advice on style and attire.
Shoulders and Shoes are high impact aspects of how others will perceive you. Men have it easier in this category than women do when it comes to feet. They can wear comfortable “walking” shoes and have learned through the years how important it is to stand straight with shoulders broad and back. Throughout the conference I couldn’t help but notice that the women wearing those painful pointy high heels didn’t capture the same “presence” as the women wearing a stylish yet comfortable pair of shoes. The high-heelers tended to shift back and forth as they spoke. The swaying became more of a distraction and took away from a strong “stand” in the networking circle. Clearly, the shifting was happening to alleviate pressure on foot by moving it to the other. Point goes to the guys. Women please wear shoes that you don’t have to think about at your event. You want your attention to focus on the conversation, not on how to stand so that your feet don’t hurt. If your feet hurt, your shoulders will naturally curl and you’ll lose your solid strong shoulders presence. In my case, I wore a cool pair of leopard style flats. They were comfortable, wearable for the duration and added some dash to my outfit.
2. Crisp Suit and Shirt. One of the group discussions was led by 2 men working for the same company. They dressed differently. One wore the traditional crisp white shirt and suit. The other a polo shirt, dockers and sports jacket. Most of the people in that session were dressed in formal business clothes. As both speakers went through their talk, the gentlemen in the suit seemed to be more relaxed and connected better with the audience. The other more casually dressed speaker didn’t have the same impact standing alongside someone who had clearly dressed more fittingly for the event. They each went through their presentations and concluded with an invitation to answer any questions. All the questions went to the guy wearing the formal business attire. I do believe that his dressing right for the occasion (in similar fashion with the audience) contributed to the better connection. The main takeaway here is to know your audience and dress accordingly. It is always better to fare on the side of “business” than too casual.
3. Listen More Speak Less. Not easy to do. No one is comfortable during the conversation pause. The tip here is to show interest in the other person. Let them tell you about what they do and why they are there. Be a good listener. During a customer reception, one lady in the group dominated the entire discussion, interrupting others and even tried to describe another person’s job function. No one liked her. Slowly and surely, the group started to get smaller. People left the circle. I was the last person with her staying in part because I felt bad to make up an excuse to leave and also because she complimented my leopard flats 🙂 so I continued to listen to her story.
4. Be present. According to Shawn Achor’s new book, “before happiness”, our brain can only process forty bits of information per second every minute of every day – choosing from among eleven million pieces of information our senses are receiving. The people who were the best net workers were those who were “present” in the conversation. They didn’t constantly check their email, look at their watch, or simply nod when someone asked a question. They were paying attention and were genuinely interested in the dialog. Key here is to be ready to dedicate your time and focus on what you are doing in the moment. Participating means more than showing up. It means being present in “mind” and body.
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