Stand out

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FROM an interview for a position that you’ve been eyeing to attending a networking event or even preparing for that special date, here’s how to win people over.

Be punctual

If the appointment or event is set at 8pm, it’s okay to be early but it is an absolute no-no to be late. It is common courtesy and good manners to be on time for a meeting. Website Time Management Training says planes, trains and buses leave on time and are not going to wait for you, especially if it’s to the inconvenience of other passengers. “Being on time or even slightly early gives you the chance to collect your thoughts and make sure you’re calm and composed for the meeting [or event]. This can give you a slight edge over the people who turn up spot on time or late.” More importantly, you’d save yourself the embarrassment of being late.

A firm handshake

Giving a cool and calm impression may be the first step to getting yourself that new position, partnership or client. The Work Buzz says a handshake is a quick gesture to say: “Hello, I’m here, I’m engaged, I’m assertive, I’m professional.” A handshake is enough to have people make a snap judgement about another. So, firmly grasp the hand that has been extended to you, and with just a few pumps up and down while holding eye contact, let your personality shine through. Moderation is key, The Work Buzz says, so don’t crush the other person’s hand or be too violent with the shake!

Clean up good

Keep your hair neat, fingernails clean, clothes clean, neatly pressed and presentable so you look polished at the meeting. A quick glance at the screen door to make sure you’re looking your best will do the trick. In a posting, Ask Men says: “Presenting yourself in a clean and dignified manner speaks volumes about your professional behaviour and the way you carry yourself. A small oversight may end up costing you big time.”

The strength in body language

Posture and eye contact are most important. A study by the University of California, Los Angeles, found that “93% of a person’s effectiveness in communication is determined by non-verbal communication”. So keep your chin up and shoulders straight so that you look confident, assertive and determined. Hold eye contact when holding a conversation so you look comfortable and interested in what the other person has to say. Former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Joe Navarro, the author of What Everybody is Saying, says a slight head tilt would also convey the message that you’re listening, and a quick eyebrow arch is another small but effective gesture that communicates curiosity.

Practise being personal

After introductions, and a firm handshake, use the other person’s name generously. It would make them feel special. And if you’re at a social function, it would help to introduce them to anyone you’re with. Though subtle, these polite gestures will place you in a favourable light says Ask Men. Sociologist Julie Albright of the University of Southern California says it would also help to learn the names of the other person’s spouses and children. “Mentioning them in a follow-up email or conversation will go a long way towards solidifying an initial positive impression.”

Quality conversations

Keep in mind that you’re not just being judged on what you say, but how you say it as well. Yes, it is important to ask relevant and pertinent questions based on the research you’ve conducted on the company/person you’re meeting. Speak firmly, and with a strong voice, to show your enthusiasm through your comments. Ask Men says while you might want to flaunt your intellect, look for similarities between each other to use to your advantage as it helps people feel comfortable to be able to relate to someone else, thus making their opinion of you more favourable.

But don’t talk too much. Executive coach and co-author of First Impressions Ann Demarais notes how she often finds people imparting endless information during a first encounter which ends in the speaker feeling confident and interesting and the listener thinking it was a bust. “It’s natural, especially when you’re nervous, to focus on whether the conversation is going well for you, but make sure you’re also thinking of ways to make the other person feel good. That can be as simple as asking about her day.”


This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 18, 2014.