The Art of Professional Connections:
Seven Steps to Impressive Greetings and
Step 1: APPROACH WITH PRESENCE
Have you ever noticed someone who exhibits that “certain something” when they walk into a room? They appear well groomed, calm, self-assured, and in total control. The overall effect is an unmistakable air of confidence. However, do not be fooled; they too experience the same uncertainties that we all feel. The difference is that they know how to project a sense of ease and self-assurance without allowing their insecurities to show. They effectively hide any uncertainty or inner turmoil from the outside world.
I like to study and observe these people and, in doing so, try to capture what it is exactly that makes them stand out. Sometimes, I just ask. What I have learned and experienced is that the most powerful tool you have is your “personal presence,” because it sets the stage for each and every interaction. Anyone can have “IT,” but it is most often taken for granted. I wrote this chapter to help you identify and put into action what you need to know to enhance your professional standing.
This first chapter addresses every aspect of personal presence and charisma. You will discover your “IT” Factor as you discover how to approach with presence and define what people see and feel. You accomplish this by making an impact with your appearance and projecting confidence with your body language. Nothing ruins professional attire faster than slouchy posture or contradictory body language! They must work together to send the same confident message.
The objectives of this chapter (Step 1) are . . .
- To identify the components of perception and determine how you want to be perceived;
- To teach you how you can make a professional impact with your appearance; and
- To give you tips on how you can control your body language as well as read body language cues.
This chapter concludes with a review/quiz.
Step 2: INITIATING AND RESPONDING TO INTRODUCTIONS
Delivering an impressive greeting means that you know when to be formal and when to be informal (or casual) with your name and with titles. This is not easy with a society that often functions on a first-name basis and titles fall to the wayside.
I know all this protocol stuff, and still I have those awkward moments. Will I sound too formal if I address someone as “Mr. Jones”? Or, should I go immediately to his first name, “Jim”? Will I offend him if I address him as “Jim” before allowing him to offer his first name? And yes, sometimes, I slip up; but I try to get it right as much as possible. This takes some thought because making the introduction can be the most awkward stage of the greeting. Whatever the case, introductions must take place, and they set the tone for every type of interaction.
Admittedly, I have a tendency to be too quick to initiate or respond to a formal introduction and in doing so I mess up! Sound familiar? Rank-based introductions require more time and thought. Therefore, I have learned to step back, think through the introduction, and then initiate or respond.
To further help alleviate this problem, I carry a flat business card holder, and it has helped me tremendously. It is made of high-grade leather and has a space for two business card inserts on one side and an insert for 3×5 note cards on the other side. I keep a short pen or pencil in the crease of my hand. As I watch people congregate and hear their names and titles spoken or see them on their name tags, I discreetly note them on my note card. Then, when I am ready to “connect” with someone (or make an introduction), I have my “cheat sheet” point of reference.
- To identify the three primary ways to make an introduction;
- To show you how to honor rank and titles by utilizing a formal introduction formula; and
- To help you get beyond awkward “what to do when” moments
As you can surmise, there are many variables to the greeting and introduction process. They are all broken down and explained in this chapter.
Step 3: MASTERING THE NAME EXCHANGE
Do you recall Shirley Ellis’s famous song, “The Name Game,” from the 1960s? What a fun and catchy way to remember a name! She uses the power of rhyming. Wouldn’t it be great if it was as easy as the song implies? It is not! For most people, remembering names does not come easily. It takes practice and concentration. If you have not heard the song, you should look it up. It is fun and has a great beat.
I am often challenged when trying to pronounce unfamiliar names or remember someone’s name. To try and get beyond this dilemma, I took the Dale Carnegie course―twice! One of the techniques the instructor suggests is to create mental scenes that sound like the name; the more outrageous and animated the scene, the easier it is to remember the name. To be honest, it was just too much for me to mentally create, so I had to experiment with different techniques until I found the one that best suits me.
The objectives of this chapter (Step 3) are . . .
- To teach you how you can learn the historical significance behind some names (e.g., many international names);
- To share techniques that help you remember a name;
- To offer tactics that ensure the correct pronunciation of a name; and
- To help you decipher unique name arrangements and accents.
This chapter also addresses hyphenated names, double names, accents, and non-Western names.
Step 4: HANDSHAKE MESSAGING
My, how the generations have changed! My brothers were taught to shake hands as young men. It was expected. However, the girls in my family were not taught to shake hands. Sound familiar? Even when I went to work, a handshake greeting was awkward. I would stand with my hands behind my back as the men engaged in their handshake greeting and departure. It took a while early in my career, but I finally mastered my own comfort level around the art of shaking hands.
Today, it is not just about teaching young girls and boys to shake hands. Instead, we are shaking hands, bumping knuckles, air kissing (or kissing on the cheek), hugging, high-fiving, or participating in some greeting ritual. At the same time, as accepting as the hug greeting has become in the business arena, some of us are just not huggers with strangers, the kiss in the air (or on the cheek) feels awkward, and the germ averting knuckle bumping seems silly. As for me, I prefer to stay with the tried-and-true handshake. It feels professional and is not invasive or awkward.
The objectives of this chapter (Step 4) are . . .
- To describe the handshake’s history and intent;
- To identify the various types of handshakes and their meanings;
- To explain the components and protocols of a business handshake; and
- To make you aware of non-business handshake rituals.
Most likely, you will have a strong opinion on the respective message of the handshake, which can range from weak in character and indifferent to overpowering. Allow this chapter to offer you guidance.
Step 5: CULTIVATING CONVERSATION SKILLS
While presenting a series of seminars to a large Chicago accounting firm as part of their best practices training, I observed that in-person conversation skills seemed to be their biggest stumbling block. As long as they were interacting with individuals in their own age group, position or rank, there was no problem. Crossing age, experience, and cultural barriers, however, created extremely awkward moments.
Sometimes, the best ideas come to me when I am in action; this was one of those times. As I was engaged in a conversation skills exercise, I was getting blank looks in return. Then an episode from CSI came to me. It was all about DNA! We are all unique in our background, our interests and our personality. Furthermore, people prefer to interact with people of similar interests; they hire them and they sign contracts with them. What a wonderful way to remove barriers. I instantly came up with another conversation idea and paired management with new hires, domestic with international employees, and young staff members with senior-aged individuals. I asked them each to find a common interest or learn a personal achievement from the other person. The beauty of this exercise is that everyone learned things about the other that normally they would never have discovered.
My challenge then was to get everyone back on track because the conversations were so engaging. This exercise has become a regular part of my training agenda because it eliminates experience, age, and cultural barriers and excites people to learn about each other.
The objectives of this chapter (Step 5) are . . .
- To identify small talk purpose and variations;
- To show you how to develop a conversation DNA and use it to identify commonalities;
- To lay out the blueprint for a dynamic discussion;
- To help you make your gratifying conversations more gratifying by eliminating distractions, avoiding inappropriate topics, and overcoming sensitive situations; and
- To illustrate the benefits of listening more and talking less.
Combining the conversation approaches and ideas outlined in this chapter allows you to conduct a great conversation instead of one for which you want a do-over.
Step 6: BUSINESS CARD DEVELOPMENT AND EXCHANGE
Remember when having a business card printed was a simple matter of including your logo, name, address, phone number, and email address? Then, a byline needed to be included to create a call to action or to better define what you do. No matter how well I plan my business card, there always seems to be something missing. In my last printing, I made sure that my byline was there and my social media were properly presented. Now I have learned that I need to add a QR code so that my information can be quickly picked up using Smartphones and tablets.
The changes are astounding. Staying on top of all the technological advances, even as they affect the design of a good business card, is important. At the same time, there is an art to designing an effective business card and not overcrowding the card with information. Your business card leaves a very strong impression when it is skillfully designed, user friendly, and properly presented. It is the part of you that you leave behind to serve as a reminder of your interaction.
As simple as a business card appears to be, it is a powerful document and offers a wealth of information and uses. There is more that you can do to make your card “recipient and user friendly.”
The objectives of this chapter (Step 6) are . . .
- To assist in developing the components of your business card;
- To demonstrate the protocols of a business card exchange; and
- To offer tips on business card usage.
This chapter addresses additional ways in which you can make your card work for you without abusing its usage.
Step 7: MEMORABLE DEPARTURES AND EFFECTIVE FOLLOW-UPS
Your opening and closing steps go with you everywhere, from the initial interview to individual meetings and conference gatherings. They should be a natural part of your everyday business persona. Furthermore, if your greeting had a rough beginning, your savvy departure will override any faux pas or awkwardness. How often have you had an awkward beginning and wished you could start over? When this happens to me, I put extra thought and effort into my departure because people tend to remember how things end more than how they began. Make your departure memorable.
The objectives of this chapter (Step 7) are . . .
- To review all seven steps and help you put them into action;
- To show you how to overcome follow-up obstacles; and
- To create a follow-up action guide.
This chapter will show you how to overcome follow-up obstacles and create a follow-up action guide.
- Create of climate of trust
- Be approachable
- Dress your level of importance
- Posture your confidence
- Validate with your eyes
- Connect with your smile
- Apply the correct protocol
- Engage with your words
- Inspire with your attitude
- Make it easy to communicate with you