, , , , , , , , , , ,


An advertisement I saw many years ago read: ‘I don’t know you, I don’t know your company and I don’t know your product. So, what are you trying to sell me?’ When you do not know the people you are with and they are unfamiliar with you, opinions and impressions are based on what is seen and heard.

While you cannot control all situational factors, here are the three things that you can control to make a good first impression:

1. Dress for the occasion. When choosing what to wear, consider the nature of the event – is it formal, semi-formal or casual? Opt for conservative attire if you are attending your organisation’s annual dinner, or a party thrown by your supervisor. If it is an office picnic, you may experiment with more flamboyant clothes, but remember, do not put on something too garish as these events are often used to determine if you are ‘suited’ to join the executive elite.

2. Behave appropriately. Should you be exuberant, talkative and socialise, or stay quiet and keep to yourself, conversing only when spoken to? You need to find the right balance; we all have a unique personality – some of us are gregarious, others shrinking violets. Be sure you know what works and what impedes you socially. Being comfortable in your skin does not mean that you stop improving yourself by shedding awkward, and at times unseemly, body language and behaviour; this will help you climb both social and organisational ladders.

3. Practice eloquence. From the basic etiquettes of exchanging business cards after meetings to establish your PR network to delivering persuasive presentations, be mindful of what you say and how you say it. Mumbling your way through meetings conveys a lack of confidence; do your research, put all the relevant facts together and try the age-old mantra of practicing in front of a mirror before that important sales pitch or job interview.

– Leon Menezes
The writer is a senior HR practitioner, professor-of-practice and an executive coach. 

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on October 26, 2014.