Personal appearance is an often disregarded part of communication and presentation skills.
When you are speaking in public you may be representing your organisation or just yourself, but it is still you in the front line. It is you that the other person, group or audience sees and before you have time to open your mouth and give an account of yourself, certain assumptions, both consciously and subconsciously, have been made.
First impressions are very important - they can be about attitude as well as dress.
Visual impact is at least as important as verbal impact, people will very quickly make assumptions based on your facial expressions, the clothes you wear, how well groomed you are and your body language.
Positive Body Language: Positive body language includes:-
- Maintaining eye contact with the person to whom you are speaking.
- Smiling (if appropriate) but especially as a greeting and when parting.
- Sitting squarely on a chair, leaning slightly forward (this indicates you are paying attention).
- Nodding in agreement.
- A firm handshake.
- Presenting a calm exterior.
- Looking interested.
Negative Body Language: Negative body language includes:-
- Not looking at a person when speaking.
- Tapping a foot, fingers etc.
- Rocking backwards and forwards.
- Continually clearing your throat.
- Fiddling with hair, ear lobes, jewellery, jacket, glasses, etc.
- Picking at fingers or finger nails.
- Repeatedly looking at your watch or a clock in the room.
- Standing too close to others.
- Inattention to a person speaking.
Little can be done to alter your face but a lot can be done about the expression that is on it. However the day started and whatever minor crisis has occurred along the way, people have not come to meet you with a dark expression on your face. It is your duty - to yourself as well as to the organisation that you represent - to convey a calm, friendly and professional exterior, despite how you may feel inside. Smile and appear optimistic.
Clothes and Grooming
Only you can answer this question. Due to the nature of the work, some organisations are happy for people to be casually dressed, whilst others may expect smarter attire. It is important to be suitably dressed within expected limits.
Nobody expects you to be packaged into something you are not, but your appearance is a reflection of your own self-esteem and you should aim to present yourself to your best possible advantage. Whilst you might be casually dressed when working within your organisation, a more formal approach may well be preferable when representing your organisation at an external meeting.
Good grooming and a tidy appearance is preferable, whether casually or more formally dressed.