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Body language : You can only make a first impression once

Whilst stats vary slightly, it is widely accepted that your body language counts for 58% of the decision of how someone judges you – this means before you even open your mouth to speak, you have made an impact of some nature. Your tone of voice counts for another 34%, the words for a meagre 8%.

Think this scenario through – the team are sitting at the board room table; they are waiting for the ‘consultant’ to arrive for the first meeting. The door opens, and a bottom enters followed by a briefcase, a suitcase on wheels and then the face of the consultant. His hair could do with a comb running through or at least a hand – but he doesn’t have one free; the door closes behind him. I wonder what you would be thinking if you saw this – you may well have seen it. The first impression is made never to be remade; you can only make a first impression once so think about your body language.

If you are going to make an entrance – make it a good one. There is a balance between walking in and owning the room – your arrogance filling the space, and walking in as if you are not sure you should be there, hoping there is a seat free. As with anything, you need to take control of what you can.

• Pause with hand on the handle: before you enter the room think of someone that you care about – it softens your face and that is what you probably want. It’s non-threatening, it’s open and people are more likely to judge you as friendly and confident before you speak.
• Make sure your clothes look how you want them to: linen creases and ties with food on look shoddy; no socks/tights on might not be acceptable in that business. Like it or not people will see that before they hear you.
• If you have a suitcase leave it with reception.
• Have the things you are going to need at your fingertips: pen, pad, glasses, notes.
• Breathe: before you speak, breathe out, long and deep. It tells your brain that you are not in fight or flight mode and allows you to relax.
• Make eye contact: look at people but don’t stare!

There are so many things that are out of your control but equally there are many things that are. Sort yourself out – it’s the one thing that you can plan ahead with some confidence.

Penny Whitelock FinstLM

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