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Hair: Long all around. Combed and styled neatly into place.
Face: Clean shaved and well groomed.
Others: Black full sleeve shirt worn under a semi formal, grey day jacket.
The right business etiquette can help you excel in your career, perform well when interviewing, make you achieve career goals and expand your professional network.
The first look makes the impression: Choose clothes that look sharp, smart, and yet make you feel comfortable and confident.
Wear a universally acceptable colour palette: Sharp monotones of black or white or light / dark shades of grey, beige, blue or brown.
Dress right: Wear a cut or fit that flatters your body type and allows ample movement. Always pick fabrics that are light and crease free.
Groom yourself: You must be clean shaved or well-trimmed, have buffed skin and sport neatly styled hair. Long or dirty nails are completely unacceptable.
Smell good: Body odour and visible sweat patches are not even an option; you should therefore use long lasting and effective deodorants and light or gentle fragrances – nothing too strong or powdery and which lingers in the room, even after you have left.
The details are always noticed. Shoes must be polished and well maintained, and the heels shouldn’t make any sound when you walk. Wear a simple watch, minimal (or no) jewellery and carry a compact and easy to handle file case or handbag. Your phone must either be off or on silent.
Three accessories you didn’t know you could wear or carry to a work meeting, but you should:
My recommendation: Making notes at a meeting shows you are meticulous and ensures you don’t miss out on anything important. The notebook must look a bit used but never dirty or worn out. Placing this into a functional and smart leather case will surely help you score brownie points.
My recommendation: A watch which has the usual health and wellness features as well as a Bluetooth calling feature so you can talk through your wrist when you want to be discreet. This will improve your productivity as you can check your notifications and take important calls when you need to.
My recommendation: It’s fine to wear semi casual shoes to a work meeting provided it’s a casual setting or venue. Remember, work footwear must be both comfortable and well maintained. Especially recommended when if you have a long commute or travelling between locations.
Better to arrive a bit early, than being late. How you make an entry, tells people how you expect to be treated. Politely inform the front office or person you are meeting about your arrival and be seated while you wait.
Use the waiting time to visualise the conversation, meeting, or interview in advance – it allows the mind and body to be better prepared to coordinate and function, as they should. Turn on the silent mode of your phone so you are not distracted or uninterrupted by calls or alerts.
Receptionists are often the first line of screening and will often notice, observe, and report if you are anxious or restless. If you have spent over 20 minutes waiting, it’s fine to give a gentle reminder – anything earlier indicates you are either impatient or pushy.
When you are called in, walk in briskly, place your bag or file case on one side of your chair (never on the table) and be seated. Carry the file case or bag on one side, ideally on the left hand so you can shake hands with the right hand.
Large carry cases convey you are disorganised. Slim, light, and compact carry cases will make you look both disciplined and ‘put together’. Never place the bag in front of you or between you and the other person.
Place the chair or your body’s angle away from sitting directly across the person. This cuts the level of authority of the other person. Sitting with your elbows on the arms of a chair conveys strength, power, and security.
Unbutton your jacket when you sit. Ensure the shirt or tie underneath is in a condition to be seen, as it will always be noticed.
Have an approachable and open body language. Keeping your legs or hands crossed creates barriers. Having said that, sitting too relaxed or spreading your legs too wide will send out the wrong signals.
During times of social distancing, avoid shaking hands altogether.
It’s fine to initiate a handshake, but don’t force one on the other person. Never give your hand over a table but from the side. A good firm handshake ensures you strike the deal, get the job, appraisal or win over the other person.
Ensure the pressure is gentle yet firm. A soft handshake conveys you are either suppressed or submissive, while long handshakes can be both imposing and uncomfortable. If you are meeting a woman, always wait for her to give her hand out – alternatively a short verbal greeting is better.
Introduce yourself. Hand over your business card (with both hands) at the first meeting. If you are meeting the person again, your opening line should be ‘It’s good to see you again’.
Never start the conversation complaining about the traffic or weather. Complimenting the person’s work or office will go down well but overdoing it will not work in your favour.
If you are joining a group of people, never approach them when they are speaking amongst each other. It will take them by surprise, and you will be intruding their personal space.
Smile, but don’t overdo it – subtle facial gestures are always better than a wide grin. In the first three minutes, ensure to use the person’s name twice: it boosts their ego and makes them feel important and in control.
When you speak, keep your fingers together and hands close to the body. Too much animation isn’t necessary. Gently mirror the gestures of the other person, without aping them. Nod your head occasionally, but not too frequently. Always acknowledge that you understand what the other person is saying. This builds their trust in you.
Never get over familiar, sit or stand too close to the other person. Personal questions must never be asked – even if you notice a family photo or souvenir. If you see an award or accolade placed near the person, it’s been put there to be noticed and mentioning it will always earn you brownie points as well as prove that you are both sharp and observant.
Give an answer only when asked a question. If you have a doubt or need to interrupt, always wait for a pause or a break in the other person’s sentence. Speak in short, clear, and concise words or sentences. Use the queens English and not online expressions or abbreviations. A slang or accent will work against you.
If you are making a pitch and the other person continues to keep eye contact or raise their eyebrows, then they are listening or sold to your idea. If they make repetitive gestures or look away, you need to work harder to convince them.
You know the meeting, discussion or conversation is over when the other person takes a long gap after an obvious closing line or leans forward from the chair, starts looking around or begins to look at his / her watch or phone.
Prepare and use your closing line, based on the purpose of your meeting. Leaving a channel of communication open always works. Normally, thanking the person for their time and letting them know that you look forward to hearing from them ensures a positive and quick response.
Plan your exit before it happens and don’t stumble as you get up to leave. Collect your belongings – turning back to pick up something you left behind is never an option.
Leave the door (open or closed) – exactly as it was when you entered the cabin, cubicle, or room.
Carry yourself well. The right posture and body language are extremely important.
At meetings, enter the room as confidentially as possible. Use the person’s name to address them – first name if known personally and last name if you are meeting them for the first time.
Shake hands firmly, but briefly. Never apply more pressure than the other person. Sweaty palms indicate a nervous or fragile nature. Never shake hands across the desk.
Sitting with your elbows resting on the arms of the chair conveys strength, while sitting with your arms close to body makes you appear defeated. However, relaxed the business meeting, never fold your hands behind your head and sit or place your feet on your desk.
While standing, rest your body weight on your own feet. Never stand against or take support of chairs, pillars, or the wall. Standing with your legs crossed over each other makes people think you have a hidden agenda or something to hold back. Standing with your legs slightly apart and hands relaxed on either side reflects confidence, dominance, and power.
Briefings should be conducted standing and meetings while being seated. This opens rooms for discussions and gives everyone a chance to speak or say something. It also indicates that you are open to a discussion.
If you work with people overseas, make it a point to understand their work culture and social structure. Do your homework before you travel, meet, or interact with someone of another nationality, either offline or online. Knowing and showing respect to their customs makes them trust you instinctively and they will always appreciate the effort you have made, even though they may not say so.
My tip: Moving your hand frequently during a conversation indicates you underestimate the power of your own words. Minimise the hand movements and never point at the listener.
The author is an image, style, grooming and etiquette consultant and trainer.
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