by Lori Milner: author, entrepreneur, thought leader and founder of Beyond the Dress
They used to say that your co-workers assessed your competence, likability and trustworthiness in about seven seconds, but the latest research conducted by Harvard Medical School suggests that all that happens now in just 250 milliseconds! And that’s all based simply on your appearance – so you really have to ensure you have it all worked out! Here are some tips on how to maximise your physical presence when it comes to meetings and interviews.
In the context of a meeting or an interview, what matters is how quickly you make eye contact. Direct eye contact signals you are present and giving the other person your full attention. It also shows confidence and a willingness to connect.
Preparation is critical to a successful meeting. But preparation isn’t just about preparing the work. Have you ever thought to research who you are presenting to or being interviewed by? Look over their LinkedIn profile, read some of their tweets or blog posts if available. When chatting in your meeting, use your knowledge to show them you have taken the time to research them and planned appropriately. You can say something like, ‘I really enjoyed your article on X, have you ever read this author?’ Or, ‘I saw a few of your tweets and I think you would find this site really interesting.’ It is not sucking up or coming across inauthentically – quite the contrary, actually. It is about forming a genuine connection.
When you walk into a boardroom or an interview, act as if you are the host. Don’t think of yourself as the subject because that immediately reduces you to a submissive position. That said, do not go the other extreme and walk in with an air of arrogance. You want to come off as self-assured. When you enter the room, smile, be friendly and use a firm handshake. If you are being interviewed, don’t forget that an interview is a two-way street and you are also interviewing them. Do not give away your power and never be scared to ask questions.
Maintain an upright posture, shoulders pulled back, and when you sit, cross your legs and keep your arms at your sides. Andrea Quaye, Marketing Director for SAB South Africa, truly understands the power of personal branding. She says it’s vitally important to be physically present and to send out signals that are congruent with what you do. ‘Physical presence and how you portray yourself are extremely important. For example, slouching and being distracted on your phone in a meeting says something about your engagement with the meeting or even your role. I have a really strong belief that you have to express yourself and show up as yourself; for example, I wear quite eccentric glasses but that’s my way of expressing my personality. But what I know for sure is when I’m going into a board meeting and I know it’s going to be a tough board meeting, I will dress to the nines. It gives me the confidence to be my best self. Physical presence is about positioning yourself in certain environments.’
One of the main criticisms women face is that they often don’t speak up in meetings. Sometimes it’s fear, sometimes it’s for cultural reasons. But the corporate landscape is changing, and, more and more, women are making their mark in the boardroom. Meetings and interviews are great opportunities to show off your knowledge and voice your opinion … so you have to say something! The reality is, if you don’t make yourself heard, no one will know your value. This is how you really own your physical space.
Here’s to owning your meetings,
LORI MILNER is the engaging facilitator, thought leader and mentor known for her insightful approach to being a modern corporate woman. Her brainchild, the successful initiative Beyond the Dress, is the embodiment of her passion to empower women. Beyond the Dress has worked with South Africa’s leading corporates and empowered hundreds of women with valuable insight on how to bridge the gap between work and personal life. Clients include Siemens, Massmart, Alexander Forbes, Life Healthcare Group, RMB Private Bank and Unilever to name a few. Lori has co-authored Own Your Space: The Toolkit for the Working Woman in conjunction with Nadia Bilchik, CNN Editorial Producer. Own Your Space provides practical tools and insights gleaned from workshops held around the world and from interviews with some of South Africa’s most accomplished women to provide you with tried-and-tested techniques, tips and advice to help you boost your career, enhance your confidence and truly own your space on every level. Own Your Space is the ultimate ‘toolkit’ to unleash your true power. It’s for the woman who wants to take her career to new heights and who is ready to fulfil her true potential.
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