First impressions are important. Learn about the importance of body language: a firm handshake, smile, dress 10% smarter than everyone else, nothing odd or distracting, e.g. haircut or clothes. What is a professional appearance? Shoes are an area that often gets neglected - shoes can be very revealing. Check your image with others to make sure it's OK.
- Here's a quick win to help you on your path to being successful at anything. Make sure your body language is spot on. And if you want other people to trust you and want to work with you, here are my top five tips for body language. Number one, firm handshake. When you meet anyone, if in doubt, shake their hand. Even if it's the second or third meeting, even if it's a group of people, it's absolutely vital to shake their hands.
This varies from country to country and generally the world's getting more informal, but still there's something about handshakes that makes them pretty much universal. A handshake shows respect and it shows that you want to have a working relationship with that person. So the worst handshake is no handshake at all. Closely followed by the second worst, the dead fish. Why would anyone do that? I just don't understand it.
But if you are one of those dead fish people, then please make the effort to give it a bit of a squeeze, but also not the bone crusher grip or anything else odd. Anyway, test it on a friend and make sure you've got your handshake right. Otherwise, people will judge you badly before you've even had a chance to get started. Number two, smile. Even if you had a terrible journey to get there, even if you've been up all night being sick, even if you're dreading the meeting, you must smile or they will immediately assume that you don't like them and that's a bad start.
I'm lucky because I've got quite a smiley face, but if you don't, then make the effort to think happy thoughts just before you go in through that door to meet that person. Number three, nothing odd or distracting. No weird socks or joke tie or strange haircut or sculpted facial hair. Nothing that might upset 10% or 80% of your customers or potential business partners. Play it safe and be boring.
Smart but boring. People do have trademarks like Richard Branson's hair has always been distinctive, but it's not odd or distracting or worrying. Number four is dress 10% smarter than them and Richard Branson is the exception to this because his whole brand is about being casual and fun and friendly. And dressing down is certainly on the increase. Fewer people are wearing ties nowadays.
But as a general rule, if in doubt, be a little more professional than you would normally. Not massively formal to the point where you look out of place or intimidating. Just relaxedly professional. So if you're visiting a very informal software company, you could swear a smart casual jacket or jeans with shiny black shoes and maybe considering wearing a higher quality shirt than you would normally. The rule is slightly smarter than them.
And finally number five, shoes. People notice these so it's worth making sure that they are smart and clean and right for the occasion. I think you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes. I think they give away the real values of the person since people often don't pay conscious attention to their shoes since they're kind of out of sight out of mind. For social occasions, obviously you can wear what you like. But for important work meetings, your shoes would maybe be black and definitely clean and shiny.
So think about your shoes. It could make a difference at that key meeting. So there we are. How are you for handshake, smiling, boringness, smartness, and shoes? Are there any areas there for improvement? And would it be worth just getting a second opinion from someone you trust on the above list?