Personal Image

You're Dressed for Success, But Is Your Presentation a Mess?

Carol was a bright, up and coming assistant vice president in a health care company. She was definitely dressed for success. Visually, she looked like an executive. The issue was when Carol presented to senior management...

Got to Be Good Lookin' Cause It's So Hard to See...

Remember the John Lennon lyrics, "Got to be good lookin' cause it's so hard to see?"Looks are important for both men and women. Yes, women are unfairly judged and held to a higher standard. Female candidates are scrutinized for every new hairstyle which is not the case for male politicians. That being said, I tell my clients and audiences to honor the power of the visual. First impressions are visual and almost instantaneous. We make decisions about leadership, trustworthiness, success level, and competence based on how others appear visually. Your stage presence doesn't depend on having a beautiful face or washboard abs. It does depend on how you carry yourself, what you wear, and how you look in the clothes you wear.

You are your own personal brand. Top companies invest outrageous amounts of capital in creating a brand and a big part of the brand is the logo, color, and packaging. Most people would perceive a Tiffany box as having more value than a brown parcel post. Real estate agents and sellers spend time and money restaging a home and manicuring the landscape because it increases value. Even animals in the wild groom themselves. Companies call me in to work with their leaders on executive presence. They don't present themselves as leaders and as a result they are not taken seriously and can't get to the next level. Wouldn't it be great if people could get past your looks and see the substance beneath the surface? Yes, it would but it isn't happening.

Appearance counts. Does that mean you need to invest in plastic surgery to look good? No. Is Hollywood anorexia a standard we want to uphold for our young girls and women? No. Should we be slaves to fashion? No. But when your look is outdated people think your ideas are old fashioned. If you look haggard, you won't be attractive on a job interview because energy sells. So, aim for good health, feel good about yourself, and dress well. Make sure your visual impression is consistent with your personal brand. When you step out on that platform it's showtime and you'd better look good.

How to Lose A Job or A Sale in 7 Seconds or Less

Has this happened to you? You go to a networking meeting. Someone approaches you who is well dressed and well spoken. They extend their hand and all of a sudden you find yourself holding a wet fish. Yuk! Nothing will sabotage a good first impression faster than a limp, weak handshake. Don't get me started! I talk about handshakes in every presentation, speech, seminar and coaching session because it's so important.

I coach leaders on executive presence and work with executives on their interviewing skills. If you have a weak handshake you've just conveyed a negative impression. First impressions count. You may not have another opportunity to influence. Your presentation is your brand and your handshake is an extension of your brand. Would you trust a leader who didn't have a firm handshake?

Yes, men and women shake hands differently. I tell men that women will not break if they shake their hands with some pressure. I tell women that men are not there to kiss their fingertips. A handshake is an equal opportunity communication. It's the same for both genders.

A handshake is a little thing that anyone can master in minutes. So why is it that even after practicing a firm handshake people revert back to being a wet fish? They don't realize that the real message is in the body language and not the words. You can say all the right things in an interview or sales call. You can have an outstanding resume or product. But if you shake hands like a wimp that is what they remember. It's an emotional reaction and people will be swayed by their feelings.

When my nephew Michael was 14, we brought him to a golf course to get a job as a caddy. Michael, being shy, reached out and offered a weak handshake. The caddy master gave him his first lesson in life. He said, "Shake my hand like you mean it." From then on Michael gave a firm handshake. It's a little thing and as I always say, it's the little things that make the greatest impact. So if you want to make a good first impression, shake hands like you mean it!

Does Your Executive Image Need Polishing?

Situation: Robert was a brilliant executive who worked for a health care company. But he was not projecting a strong leadership image because of his rambling, academic style and his extensive technical vocabulary that tended to alienate his listeners. Not only was Robert not connecting with his peers, visually he didn't look like a leader. He wore a plaid shirt, a sweater vest, and casual shoes. The brilliance his boss recognized in him was not shining through to others.

Solution: As part of the Exec-U-Lead coaching program, Robert learned to use an executive summary approach and to speak in snappy sound bites. By using simpler, shorter words his message had more impact on his audiences. Robert was persuaded to change his look from weekend casual to corporate coat and tie, so he could look more like an executive.

Result: Robert was able to change the image he projected to others - both visually and verbally. He was able to gain respect and be acknowledged for his leadership. Today, he looks and sounds like a leader and he's taking his team to new heights.

They're Just Not That Into You

I've coached a lot of speakers and I've seen more speakers than I can count. And I've discovered that there is more to great speaking than excellent platform skills. We've all seen speakers who have perfect timing, never say um, have a well organized speech and exude confidence on stage. Yet, there's something the audience doesn't like about them. It could be air of arrogance, they may appear slick, or their words sound pretentious. If the audience can't connect they don't like the speaker. After working with so many clients and speaking to numerous groups I started to realize that people's success depended on how well they were liked. According to a Yale University study, people gain success not by aggression but by being nice. Being respected is good; being liked is even better. Juries award higher compensation to people they like. The most likable candidate usually wins an election. During the Democratic primary,Hillary Clinton's likability surfaced as an issue. Obama was perceived as more likable and won. During tough economic times, when a manager has to choose who gets a pink slip it won't be the the employee who is most liked. Employers hire people they like, clients do business with people they like, and sometimes likable students may even get a higher grade. So, if you want your message to be heard, if you want to influence, you've got to be liked.

What is likability? Find out in this video.

We Do Judge A Book By It's Cover

Today I was leaving from the office to attend a networking luncheon. It was a warm, sunny day so I decided to take the bus and walk a few blocks to the hotel. As I was exiting the bus, a sixty-five year old man leaned over and said,"Are you wearing Chanel?" I paused for a moment thinking he was referring to my perfume. I realized that he was admiring my suit. Sadly, I told him it wasn't Chanel but accepted the question as a compliment. I was a little early so I stopped into a clothing boutique. As I entered the store, the male security guard said, "That's a nice suit." I thanked him and wondered how I had garnered two compliments in five minutes. Once I arrived at the event there was 30 minutes of networking. A woman passed by and admired my suit. Well, that's not surprising. Women are fashion conscious and it makes for good small talk. After all, New York City is a fashion hub. At around 5:30 p.m. I left to meet my cousin at Starbucks at Rockefeller Center. A woman stopped me on the street and told me how nice my suit was. What was going on? Four complete strangers of both genders complimented my attire. Was something in the air? I don't think so. I've had people admire the suit before. It must be that it's an attractive suit. And what does that have to do with presentations?

You are a personal brand.The way you speak, how you carry yourself, and what you wear are signaling and communicating your brand, your style. It's your presentation to the world. And... while we can't judge a book by its cover, we often do make judgments about how people look. It takes seven seconds or less to make a first impression. People will actually discount what you say to believe what they see. That's the impact of the visual!

When you're in a book store, the first thing that makes you pick up a book is the cover. If it's not attractive, it stays on the shelf. Marketers spend thousands of dollars in research to test the right packaging design. People buy the bottle before they buy the perfume.

Your audience is making judgments before you begin to speak. Does your visual presentation support your message? Do you look credible? Do you carry yourself with confidence? They say that clothes don't make the man. Well, from my experience it sure helps when you wear a nice suit.

Presenting Yourself for the Job Interview

A job interview is a business presentation. You have the opportunity to learn about new companies, new positions, and network with new people. The first step is to equalize the power. And that involves an attitude adjustment. The power should be 50-50. The interviewer is sizing you up AND you're sizing up the company. Don't give all the power to the interviewer. You decide if the company meets your criteria. Once you've balanced the power, here are some tips for presenting a positive image:

Prepare and rehearse. Anticipate difficult questions and prepare a strategy for answering them. Practice your answers out loud until you feel confident.

Know your message. What are your top three strengths, abilities and accomplishments? Know them cold and be able to back them up with examples.

Give a firm handshake. This is your first impression. A weak handshake creates a negative image, as does a bone crushing grip. A firm handshake combined with direct eye contact spells confidence. The handshake should not differ for men and women. Use the same confident and firm grasp.

Create chemistry. Make some small talk to break the ice. Then observe the interviewer and pace his or her energy. Does the interviewer like to get down to business? Then sit up and get to the point. Is he or she a storyteller? Then slow down and give more examples and vignettes. We like people who are most like us. A University or Michigan study determined that when hiring managers the formula was 60% chemistry and 40% skills.

Think and Pause. An interview is not a free association test. Think before you answer. Pause and wait for a response. Don't rattle on at breakneck speed. Speed talking is a sign of nervousness.

Be enthusiastic and upbeat. Nothing sells like enthusiasm. A study by the University of Michigan revealed that when hiring managers, the formula was 60% chemistry and 40% skills. Eagerness and a positive attitude can compensate for a lack of experience.

Ask questions. Job candidates who don't ask questions are perceived as disinterested. Preplan some questions. In the event that the interviewer is extremely thorough, ask an industry question. Don't lead with salary and benefit questions.

Listen. This skill more than any other is the key to your success. Listen with your eyes. What's the body language telling you? Listen with your ears. What do you hear in the tone and words? Listen with your heart. What do you hear between the lines? What is not being said? Clarify and paraphrase what the interviewer said before answering the question. (To improve your listening ask about the Listening Styles Profile and the Listen and Sell audio tape at

Ask for the next step. Don't leave without knowing what's next. This is especially critical in sales jobs. The interviewer wants to see if you can ask for the order. If appropriate ask for the job. Express your interest and say, "Where do we go from here?" " What is the next step?" "When should I call you?"

Say thank you. Write a thank you note and mention something specific to each interviewer. Stay in touch. Follow-up may be the reason you finally land the job.

Copyright © Diane DiResta. All rights reserved.