Give Good Presence

To keep moving up the corporate ladder, you'll need to polish your demeanor. Here's how.

for the golf course. Steer clear of tight slacks or shorts and blouses that are sheer or have a plunging neckline.

For black-tie or formal events. It may be worth your while to buy a tuxedo if you attend enough formal affairs (five or more per year). If you prefer to rent, do so from a reputable establishment and heed the salesperson’s advice, say Stewart and Faux.

For women, simple, elegant, and tasteful is what you want to look for, explains Ann Marie Sabath in her now out-of-print book, Beyond Business Casual: What to Wear to Work If You Want to Get Ahead. Watch your hemline, and remember a general rule of thumb: show form or flesh, not both.

“When attending formal affairs, look for outfits in silk, crepe, or satin [for those winter galas],” says Sabath. “While a velvet outfit limits your wear, since this fabric should be worn between November and March, clothes made of this material look regal.”

Polished at the podium
For even some of the most seasoned professionals, the fear of public speaking still ranks up there with the fear of bugs, snakes, and even death. “The big thing is most people are simply afraid of being laughed at or judged,” says Batt Johnson, a speech coach and president and CEO of Executive Communication Consulting in New York.

Relate to the audience as if speaking to one person, suggests Johnson. People often become overwhelmed at the thought of speaking to 500 people.

Johnson’s suggestions will help you face your fear and grace the stage:

  • Control your nerves. Johnson says that people often get nervous because they make a bigger deal out of giving a speech than is necessary. To deal with butterflies and sweaty palms, Johnson advises breathing from the diaphragm–in and out instead of up and down–by extending the stomach out as you inhale and let it go in as you exhale.
  • Use natural gestures and body movements. “Movement creates excitement and is a visual stimulant,” says Johnson, but stay away from planned and artificial-looking gestures. Concentrate on your facial expressions and hand movements. We’re often unaware of the gestures we use. Use a video camera to tape yourself, and correct any flaws.
  • Speak up and speak clearly. You want the audience to hear and understand you, so volume and pacing are very important. Use inflection and tone to keep listeners interested in what you’re saying. Use a tape recorder to hear what you sound like, and get friends or a coach to critique your performance.
  • Use natural humor. “Many people are afraid to use humor because they fear it will make them appear unprofessional and not be taken seriously,” says Johnson. You can use humor as it relates to something you’re talking about, but be careful about telling a joke for the sake of telling a joke. That can easily backfire.

Networking upward
To get to this point in your career, you’ve obviously done some serious external networking. Upward movement in the executive ranks, however, will also hinge heavily on your ability to rub shoulders

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