Casual business or business casual?

WE LIVE IN A WORLD that is now more relaxed than it used to be about the way we conduct ourselves in business and at work. But even though we behave less formally in these environments, how we present ourselves for an interview, or when negotiating a management, is critically important. Sandra Larkin explains.

YOUR CLIENTS ARE judging you in the first 10 seconds of meeting you. They take note of what you wear, how you greet them, the tone of your voice, the words you use and even how you smell. Yes, believe it or not, we are all guilty of passing quick judgement on others – even you!

Like animals meeting for the first time, we spend the first few seconds summing each other up.

Whilst we don’t sniff each other, we do weigh each other up in a much more socially acceptable manner. This summing up and evaluation is done in a sensory manner – visually, aurally and energetically.

Taking pride and respect in how we present ourselves to our clients gives us the confidence to tackle the difficult conversations and handle the ups and downs of our negotiations. It contributes to our self-belief and the mindset we need when dealing in a professional environment.

So what should we be aware of when developing a ‘professional presentation’ that will positively influence our clients and win business?

Choosing the right wardrobe to suit your body shape, colouring, height and work environment is essential in the first instance because it is the first thing people will notice about you. You don’t have to spend a fortune to look good with the likes of international brand shops like Zara, Witchery, Topshop and H&M. Some shops have clothes stylists employed within the organisation that can assist you. If it is too short, too low or too tight then it’s probably a no!

Ensure your shoes are always clean, unmarked and the heels are not chipped. Grooming also entails getting a regular haircut, having clean hair and manicured nails, and investing in some good skincare and tasteful make-up. Girls, always have a ‘touch up’ purse handy for summer days when you tend to sweat all your make-up off.

Boys – good grooming is not just for women! As well as your appearance, invest in a quality pen for these important occasions when signing up business. There is nothing worse than dirty nails and a bad pen.

When using fragrance, don’t overdo it. Keep some on hand in the car or your handbag for client meetings during the summer. I find it astounding that we still need to tell people to wear deodorant. Even if you are trying to steer away from aluminium, there are plenty of natural options to choose from to help combat bad body odour.

Voice tone is so important when greeting clients and just as important as language. These two components together can change an experience for a client from ‘When can we leave?’ to ‘How pleasant is this person?’

Always tailor your language to suit the level of the client you are dealing with. You wouldn’t say ‘Good afternoon Mr Jones’ to a younger Gen Y, just as you wouldn’t say ‘G’day John’ to an executive baby boomer. It is important to read people when you meet them and adjust your behaviour and communication levels to put them at ease and make them feel comfortable.

Energy levels are so important when presenting as a professional. Your clients will pick up on your energy immediately after the visual summing-up. Whilst it’s sometimes hard to show up every day to work firing on all four cylinders when you’ve left the house arguing with your partner, or feeling under the weather because you’ve been out the night before, it is necessary to change your energy levels when dealing with the public.

If you want to kick goals at professional presentations, I suggest you make better choices when you go out and drink. If you’ve had a challenge to deal with before going to work, take some time out to breathe, connect and come back to you. Suggestions would be to go for an early morning walk, perform yoga, meditation or breathing exercises or visit a café for some ‘me’ time.

Your energy levels need to remain high when dealing with the public and can make or break a business relationship. Implementing a good, healthy wellbeing plan in your schedule will help you show up with stamina, alertness and personality. Successful people maintain good habits, so take note of what you are thinking and doing from the moment you get out of bed to when you get into your car to go to work.

A healthy wellbeing routine will help build your positive attitude and will make the world of difference to your day – and how you handle any challenges life is going to throw at you!

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Sandra Larkin

Sandra Larkin has been in the service and sales sector of business for 38 years. She has successfully operated two businesses, managed large teams and nurtured high end profiles that have taken her overseas to live and work. For more information visit sandralarkin.com.au.