Thursday, September 23, 2010

Grooming and Appearance

It may not be the right thing to do, but people do judge a book by its cover.

There are many expert consultants dedicated entirely to helping others improve their appearance. Below is a collection of the most common items that come up for discussion during my workshops.
  • Do not wear excessive jewelry, loud prints, or colorful shoes that create competition for attention 
  • Avoid strong perfumes/colognes 
  • Remove change from pockets so you do not jingle it unintentionally 
  • Make sure your belt is through all the loops in your pants 
  • Check your teeth & face after meals 
  • No gum, mints, or anything else in your month while speaking – they can fly out and cause an awkward moment 
  • Check all your buttons 
  • Position all coat flaps correctly 
  • Straighten your scarf or tie
  • When in doubt, dress conservatively
  • When speaking to a larger group, be sure to wear something that has a lapel or place to clip a remote microphone 
  • Check your zipper(s) 
While you do not want to appear stuffy and unapproachable, you also want your message taken seriously. Unless you are absolutely sure that casual dress is the way to go, dress it up a notch. Your audience will sense your comfort level, so it is important to feel good in what you are wearing. Just don’t over do it to the point that your attire competes for the attention.

What can you add to the list above?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Words to Avoid

“Well basically, fourscore and seven, uh, years ago, you know, I think, our forefathers, uh…”

Junk words are those extraneous words (and sounds) that add no value to your message. When used frequently, they diminish your power and credibility. Be direct with your statements. Having to search for the message under the junk words is like digging for hidden treasure – we know it is there somewhere, but we might lose patience and give up.

Here are some common examples:

  • “Uh” – Using good eye contact is the best cure for eliminating this word (or sound) from your vocabulary. Watch others as they speak. The “uh” occurs when the person is looking at the floor or up towards the ceiling – somewhere other than another person’s eyes. It is okay to look elsewhere to gather your thoughts – just don’t speak while doing so. 
  • “You know” – Actually, I do not and I’m hoping you will tell me. 
  • “Basically” - “Basically, we are going to attend the meeting.” Either you are, or you are not. The word “basically” adds no value in most cases. 
  • “Obviously” – This word can sound condescending. It may not be obvious to some in your audience. If it is obvious to everyone, then why bother to say it? 
  • “Whatever” - “You can get from here to the airport on a bus or whatever...” What? A train, a pony, a pig? What is this word telling us? 
  • “Like” – If your intention is to sound like a teenager, then continue to disperse this word throughout your presentation. However, if your goal is to come across as an expert and trusted business advisor, then use this word only when describing how something is similar to something else. 
  • “Unbelievable” – Think about the meaning of this word. If you are trying to persuade someone, then this may not be your best choice.
  • “I want” – Many presenters tend to say something like this, “Today I want to show you…” or “During the next couple of minutes, I want to tell you about…” These phrases imply that it is about what you want (as the presenter) rather than what your audience wants. As the old saying goes, your audience does not care about you until you demonstrate that you care about them. Try removing “I” statements, especially during the first few minutes of your presentation. It’s simple to do. Try these, “Today you will discover…” or “During the next couple of minutes, you will learn about…” 

Most presenters are not aware that they are using junk words habitually. If you are uncomfortable coaching them, then leave them a short, gentle, anonymous note. I once did this with a former boss who frequently used the word “irregardlessly.” After he left for the day, I left an anonymous note on his desk informing him that there is no such word. It did the trick. I hope he doesn’t read my blog.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

WoW Em Right Away

First impressions are important. During the first seconds of your presentation, your audience is deciding whether to tune you in or take a mental trip to Santa Fe. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression!

First impressions are not drawn from content or subject matter expertise. First impressions are formed when the presenter has the highest level of adrenaline – the first several seconds of the presentation!

Get plenty of sleep the night before your presentation. Eat healthy, and avoid a heavy breakfast and lunch on the day of your presentation. If you happen to forget your opening statement, have a relevant question handy, even if it is rhetorical. This places the focus on the audience and allows you to catch your breath and collect your thoughts.

What impacts first impressions?
  • Eye contact builds trust and interest.
  • Facial expressions convey enthusiasm and seriousness.
  • Movement and posture convey confidence.
  • Touch and handshaking give a feeling of openness.
  • Appearance and clothing show professionalism.
  • Personal space impacts audience comfort.
  • Voice quality conveys confidence.