It is becoming critical in business. Personal branding is something we really need to focus on now to differentiate ourselves and stand out from the crown. It really stems from what corporate branding. Because whenever we are with clients, whenever we are presenting, whenever we are meeting clients, we are projecting corporate brand values but we are also projecting values about our self. And its absolutely critical for business success today that we reinforce corporate brand values but that we are also individual.
Beyond the nine to five
It is no longer good enough to be good at our jobs anymore. We have another 20 or 50 people around us who are also very good at their jobs. So how do we actually stand out from the crowd? How do we make a difference? How do we differentiate ourselves? How do we make ourselves more visible for the right reasons? It really does come down to personal branding.
Reading body language
The key thing that will get in the way of creating a positive impact is body language. I am not a great believer of body language because I think we could take it too literally. One gesture in isolation really does not confirm that a person is feeling that way. For example if someone is scratching their chin, it does not mean that they are lying or being dishonest -- as some books would have us believe. But if we include a lack of eye contact, shuffling around, looking down at the floor, then we might believe that this person is not confident. But certain things that do get in the way and are distracting and I think it is important that we put an emphasis on what is distracting rather than what we should get rid of just because it is a bad gesture.
Those personal presentation skills really come down to being yourself. This is really what we need to uncover with personal branding. It is about being authentic so how do you express yourself in a natural way? Bring out that natural charisma that natural gravitas.
A first impression is made very quickly, probably quicker than we all realise, probably between five and seven seconds, so within that time people have judged all sorts of things: how credible, how professional, how trustworthy, how friendly, how approachable, how creative. All these sorts of things go through peoples minds very quickly.
What research shows is that when we make a first impression, what others do is scan in our whole bodies, so all the non-verbal elements of how we present ourselves. This includes everything from dress and grooming, body language and indicators, smiling posture, eye contact -- all these sorts of things come across very quickly, we are judged in the first few second. This represents a huge percentage in the way we come across, that is the way we are as human beings.
The next thing we add to that personal impression is the quality of our voice. This is not so much about what we say but how we say it -- the delivery in the voice. So if the voice is dull, monotone, quiet and a bit uninteresting then people do not hook into our words quickly. They do not trust us quickly and therefore we do not have as much professional credibility. So non-verbal communication and the voice quality are key indicators and represent a huge percentage of that first impact. Get that right and people will hook into our words and our content much more quickly.
Critical five to seven seconds
The five to seven second period of making a first impression is critical. Research shows that in the next five seconds we can add another 50 percent to that first impression. Research is also showing that it takes another 20 further experiences with somebody to change a first impression. So in those first 15 seconds we have got key clues into how somebody operates, into their business approach, their attitude, their personality. So when we get to 30 seconds, we have really given enough time to make that impression subconsciously.
The most important step I think is that of consistency. If we do not have that consistency, we do not come across as sincere and trustworthy and our brand then is slightly unauthentic and it will not work, so consistency is important.
It is about knowing yourself more, uncovering what your brand values are, the things you would use to promote and market yourself. So that is really important and of course part of that step is gaining that feedback from other people as well.
Avoid a croaky voice
If you have traveled a long way try and use your voice before you utter those first few words to the client. If not your voice may come out croaky, a little bit hesitant and that is going to come across as perhaps insecure, a bit nervous, a bit under-confident.
Coping with travel
Do not loose sight of those first impressions. First of all make sure you leave any luggage at reception, do not arrive in a meeting cluttered up, you want to appear very much in control and unflustered, so luggage is going to get in the way of that. Do make sure your grooming is good. If ladies, for example, have rushed to put on their lipstick in the taxi from the airport just make sure that you do a quick check in the mirror so that it is not on your teeth, and that it is actually in place. Make sure that your clothes are not too creased by hanging jackets up in the plane or the taxi or wherever. Make sure that you palms are not sweaty -- do a full-length check in the mirror before going into the meeting.
It is critical that you are on time for a meeting if you want to project the most positive first impression, but do not over-apologize, just appear in control and unflustered.
Posture and smiling
Posture and smiling sound an incredibly simple element to think about, but it is amazing how many times in business people just forget about these things. Business is focused around content and we forget about these not verbal gestures. For example if we are walking or sat in a meeting and our posture is sloppy. We will not look ready for business, we will look tired and unhealthy. We will not look sharp enough. It sounds a simple thing but this is a non-verbal communication element that people will judge us on and we do not always know what people are thinking, so posture is pretty important. A smile is a fundamental business tool and again one that is forgotten about most of the time, especially when we arenervous.
This is an element we often get wrong in a meeting. We are so nervous and wrapped up in the content that we forget how we come across and we forget about projecting a positive impact and a positive image. It sounds a bizarre thing but we do judge people on their handshake. I bet you can remember who gave you that bad handshake. Often the worst one is the limp handshake.
I had a female lawyer recently that said to me, she had a very weak handshake -- I said you really need to firm it up. She was not coming across in the right way and this limp handshake was getting in the way of what her true qualities and abilities were. She said to me that she was a very relaxed person. I said people will not actually see you as a relaxed person. Unfortunately they will see you as weak and ineffective and that you cannot be bothered to shake their hand. The perceptions people have is about your brand -- so the handshake and the first few seconds is critical. It should not be over done. The bone crusher is just as bad it comes across as arrogant.
Smiling is definitely important in those first few seconds and eye contact. A lot of people do not make eye contact when they shake hands, and it is very negative and very disrespectful, it is almost like you are not interested but it also portrays a lack of confidence, and a lack of sincerity.
Making sure your eye contact varies around the room is important as well, not just that one person who is the most influential, or whatever.
Do not fiddle
Fiddling when ou are standing up presenting with things in your pockets is not good. A lot of women fiddle with their hair all the time. The thing is with these gestures is that they are distracting and they will get in the way of the words. Always make sure that your hands are visible. If you are in a meeting make sure you are not fiddling underneath the table, again it shows a lack of trustworthiness. If your hands are visible, it is much more open, so those would be key things to do and not to do.
Too much luggage
Make sure that you are not cluttered up with luggage, leave your luggage at reception, just carry a brief case to the meeting, or even a simple leather folder if you do not need a heavy brief case. For women, do not carry a handbag, a brief case, a coat and umbrella and things like that. Try and combine everything into one briefcase because otherwise you will look cluttered, you will look flustered, and you will look out of control -- these are key things on first impressions.