Enhance your professional presence


Are you aware of the messages you are sending when you enter a room or when you enter a conversation?  When you exit the room or the conversation, are you confident that you have left a favorable impression?  Sure, people may remember your words, but more so than your words, they remember your actions, behaviors, and mannerisms.  In essence, they remember your presence.

When I conduct professional development workshops, particularly around communication, I often refer to your presence as “body-talk”.  In other words “your body is talking” even when you are not using verbal language. So where am I going with this, and what does this have to do with Life Etiquette?  Plenty!

Wherever you go in life, whatever you do, there is a way to do it that shows respect for yourself, respect for others, and respect for the world around you. Life etiquette speaks to that.

The way you enter a room, how you are dressed, how you are groomed, and your body carriage all play a part in the message you present and how you are perceived.

As I write this article, I am preparing for a Professional Development Series called Enhancing Your Professional Presence.  The series includes personal care and grooming, dressing/attire, communication, and networking. Again, you may ask, “What does this have to do with etiquette?”  And, again I say, plenty.

I guess you have to know what etiquette really is. There is not enough room in the column to go deeper, but let’s say it’s more than how to use a knife and fork. Yes, those things are included, but etiquette is so much broader than the dining table. Etiquette touches every area of life.

Back to professional presence. If etiquette is about respect for yourself, respect for others, and respect for the world around you, then you show respect for yourself and others by the way you “present” yourself when you walk into a room.

For the sake of this article, let’s say that you are walking into a job interview. Are you walking with good posture, do you have a smile or at least a pleasant look on your face? Are you well-groomed? Are you dressed for an evening on the town, or are you dressed for business? 

True story, you guys. A young lady called her older, more experienced cousin to share her excitement about an upcoming job interview. Knowing this young person as she does, the older cousin asked if she could help her prepare for the interview. Her niece said “Nooooo! I got this.”  Well, alright then. 

Mind you, the workplace was pretty mainstream, not artsy or funky…not even casual. The young lady walked in with stilettos, a low-cut top, pointed nails, and eyelashes for days! Granted, when it comes to apparel, I lean toward the conservative side, but this was a bit too much.

Let’s be real, it was over the top. To add insult to injury, she wasn’t even prepared for the interview questions. At the end of the day, the interviewer felt that was a wasted hour. Don’t let that be you.  

Let’s move on. You’ve made it through the door, you are dressed and groomed well. You actually make a pretty nice-looking, if you have to say so yourself. I am sure you know there is a “but” coming, right? But do you know how to “properly” introduce yourself?  Have you learned the fine art of small talk? Do you plop down in the nearest seat and whip out your cellphone, or do you wait to be offered a seat? 

During the interview or meeting, are you poised while standing and sitting? What is your body language saying? Can you engage in conversation without cussing, swearing, or making crude remarks? Are you so nervous that all your responses are one-word sentences?

When you prepare to leave the room, do you thank the person, do you shake their hand (well maybe not now, but you should acknowledge your departure with a slight bow or nod)?  

The point to all of this is that from the moment you walk into a room until the moment you leave, your “presence” is making a statement. Let yours be “unforgettable.” 

Being prepared for an interview or meeting is a show of good professional etiquette.  It is a way of showing respect for yourself, for others, and the world around you. 

Be deliberate, intentional, and purposeful in developing your professional presence. After all, it’s your brand. Don’t leave it to chance.