Step 2 | Plan Your Route

Presenting Yourself » Presenting yourself to others

Before you meet with others, whether actual or potential customers, suppliers or funders, think about your personal appearance. It's a well-worn cliché but nonetheless true that you only get one chance to make a first impression - make it count. Different businesses, of course, have different styles - you are likely to dress differently to visit your solicitor from the way in which you would dress to visit your car mechanic. It is vital that you recognise this and adapt your personal appearance and presentation to suit the occasion.

It is safer to conform to conventional style if you seek maximum acceptance. Wear a suit, and always ensure that it and you appear clean and presentable. Badges of any kind should not be worn; the particular club or organisation may not win approval, especially if it is a religious or political interest, and it can become a distraction.

Avoid using mannerisms that can be distracting and irritating. Try not to overdo hand movements while you are speaking as this implies that you are nervous and unsure of what you are saying. You want 100 per cent attention for your presentation.

Be aware of your body language and ensure that it does not conflict with what you are saying. Ask a number of your friends (of all ages) to appraise your appearance and manner honestly and tell you what if anything would stop them doing business with you. Be prepared to measure your performance after every meeting. It might be helpful to model yourself on someone who is well regarded in your business sector.

Smiling is the best weapon you can have when selling yourself and your business. If it doesn't come naturally to you, work to acquire the habit. Practise in front of a mirror and try it out when meeting friends or colleagues; their response may surprise you.

Etiquette is very important in business and there are some simple rules that can keep you ahead of less professional competitors; for instance:

When meeting (and parting) extend your hand to give a firm handshake. Don't grip too hard - it's not a competition - and don't put your hand out palm down - it's a subtle way of putting the other person down! The purpose of a handshake is to signify greeting, parting or agreement.

Good eye contact is essential. Minimal eye contact suggests you may be disinterested, shifty or afraid. You don't have to hold the other person's gaze overlong - that, too, can cause problems as it may seem to be aggressive - just so long as seems natural or comfortable.

Use the other person's name often, remembering the three times rule - always at the beginning, always at the end, and wherever appropriate in between.

Introduce yourself by giving your name and your business name; at the same time always present a business card. This ensures that those you meet with get and remember the names right from the start.

Do not sit down until invited to do so. If the person you meet with neglects to invite you to sit down, simply ask, 'May I sit down?', but only if they are sitting.

Don't use a person's first name without their permission - many people are uncomfortable with an approach that they may consider to be overly familiar. Once you have got to know one another a little and you feel the relationship is fairly friendly you can simply say, 'Do you mind if I call you John/Judith?', adding that your name is 'Bill/Harriet'.

Listen to comments and questions. Answer objections or questions honestly and non aggressively, even if sometimes comments sound like criticisms. Agree where you can, it builds rapport. Keep your warm smile going whenever appropriate and remember to be firm and positive.