Success in the business world generally depends on a balance of technical skill and interpersonal charisma. Even if you’re not the best at what you do, you may still be memorable for the impression you make on others. Alternatively, you may be the best in your business and still leave people unimpressed due to a lack of professionalism. Regardless of industry or title, anyone can make a good interpersonal impression by following these basic rules:
- Wear your name tag on your right lapel - When you attend a business event, you are usually given a name tag sticker or pin. You should attach this to your front right side so that when you extend your hand to another, the person’s eye will be drawn to your name. Write your name legibly so people can read it. Ladies, pay attention to how low on your lapel you affix your name tag.
- Keep your business cards in a convenient place - No one wants to watch you dig through your purse or the contents of your wallet. I use a promo-style card holder that matches the InfoMart identity so I can always be marketing. When someone compliments my business card holder, I give it to them.
- Shoes - Women should wear close-toed shoes that aren't too high or distracting. People do notice if you’re bent at the waist trying to walk in heels that are too high. Shoes aren't that important in business except when the wearer’s awkwardness draws attention to them, and the way you hold yourself and move through a room is an impression that stays with people.
- Purses & Wallets - Don’t fumble with a purse or bursting wallet. If possible, place your purse in a corner away from the crowd or ask to leave it under the reception table behind the skirt. Wallets that stretch the limits of your back pocket are noticeable, even with a suit coat on.
- Adjust the volume on your phone - Make it a habit to turn the volume on your phone off or down when you walk into a meeting or business event. Whoever you see will probably want your full attention, or at least the respect of not having to compete with your noisy phone.
- Handshakes – Don’t assume that you have a good handshake. Instead, practice shaking hands with trusted friends, peers, or advisors before meeting new people. No one wants to, or will be impressed by, having to arm wrestle a stranger or clasp a limp fish hand.
- Dress up versus down – If you’re unsure of the dress code, always dress nicer than you expect you should. It is more positively impressive to look overdressed than underdressed.
- Dress for the position you want, not the position you have - Observe how the professionals in a position you desire dress, and create your wardrobe with that in mind. If you want to be in management, consider mimicking or improving upon the styles of your current managers.
- Talkers - When a meeting starts or networking pauses for introductions and a “few words” from the host, give them your full attention and don’t talk. If you are standing or sitting next to someone who talks over the speaker, politely ask them to cease their conversation so you can catch the speaker’s message. After all, you may one day be the person in front of the crowd and you’d feel disrespected if crowd chatter dismissed your message.
Over 25 years ago, when InfoMart first joined the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and began attending networking meetings, a Chamber executive took me under her wing and shared these unwritten rules. They have served me well and I hope they can serve you, too.
Do you follow any other unwritten rules of professionalism? Whether you learned a hard lesson or benefited by knowing an unwritten rule, I’d be happy to hear your stories and professional considerations.
President & Founder
Blog by Tammy Cohen originally posted to LinkedIn March 11, 2015