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Professional Presence

Telling It Like I See It – Observations at a meeting.

As soon as I walked into the room, I immediately recognized who the presenters/speakers were. Not because I knew already knew them. Not because I saw photos in advance. And not just because their attire was the most professional in the room, but because of the way they were poised; they remained standing and smiling and quite approachable. Making eye contact or simply saying good morning as each person checked in. They had shown up, and they shined. Yes, I am referencing a book by my friend, Catherine Johns. (Show Up & Shine)

For the record, I am not a banking-attire kind of girl. I prefer nice clothes that are a step or two above business casual and at times – another step or two beyond that. But I do notice others. I notice because I’m one of those people who may change clothes 2-3 times before leaving for work or to attend a professional event – meetings, seminars, general business gatherings. Granted, if I were going on a job interview or a client presentation, I would certainly up my game. But at the same time, I will choose something to be comfortable enough but still confident. It’s like why I choose more subtle glasses (that I must wear in order to see) so that when I walk into a room – I walk in, not my glasses — though I admire those who can flaunt their funkier frames and wear them well. I just can’t.

Back to this meeting – though not an isolated observation. This was a professional meeting of professionals who work in a profession-specific field among various industries. This is a monthly gathering that provides a platform for speakers from relevant experts or vendors to discuss topics that may be of a general interest to this audience. And at the same time, these speakers may gain a new client in the process, or simply, a new respect for whom they represent.

Anyone who belongs to this organization already knows – a lot of effort goes into their program planning, and they do a really nice job of organizing and communicating for its members. These types of meetings are also opportunities for networking, for collaborating and gaining new knowledge and perspective. If I was a stranger to this group, might not ever guess some worked in their said profession. I wondered about the industry or company they represent. How casual is casual for them? And, would they be scrolling on their cell phones continuously and commenting with notification beeps for all of us to hear, if they were part of a meeting at their own organization? Where have our manners gone?

I work in a profession that is often disrespected or dissed, if not feared, inside an organization. A profession and job that should have a seat at the so-called table, but for some on this day, I wondered if it was a picnic table. Activewear? Sure, if one works in a health club or gym or a physical environment; especially if the clothing had a logo from their company — then totally appropriate. Sloppy or unclean clothes, or flipflops, regardless of weather is simply inappropriate. And while these meetings do take place in the morning, when we show up, we should not look like we just woke up. These are occasions to represent one’s organization or industry, and oneself. These are good opportunities to express one’s own knowledge or expertise or interest during the Q&A portion of any meeting. That’s when all eyes are on YOU. Even for a moment. That moment could be the lasting impression of what may have been a first impression, good or not so good. We never know when we may need to rely on this same network or association to find a new job.

My observation is not only about professional appearances, or the lack of. It includes the fact that sometimes our behaviors are poorly timed, or poorly stated. Becoming argumentative with a speaker is simply ill-mannered, particularly among our peers. Questions that may be too explicit or telling of a scenario in one’s workplace may be best left for after a meeting. Speakers often stay after a scheduled session just for this purpose. We certainly don’t want to disclose a confidential matter during such a meeting. The best questions to pose in an open Q&A are those that you could be more general in nature, or that most of us might have on our minds as well.

People often display behaviors or personality in corporate training sessions or meetings of this sort, that are surprising, and not in a good way. How we behave, treat others, present ourselves in any professional scenario is important, to our careers and our reputation. When one doesn’t care what other people think of them, it often speaks louder than words. We all need to take stock before we leave the house; take a good look in the mirror, be prepared, stay off cell phones, be on time and be civil. Civility. Another subject for another time.  thUM5LGPTF