Making an entrance like a star may not be exactly your aim, but you should want to make a good first impression especially in business circles and social encounters when looking your absolute best is de rigueur and breaking through conversation circles is essential. Like yourself, I am constantly meeting new people at business meetings, industry events or social occasions and I discovered that being prepared is really paramount to my success and yours too. Preparation means advance planning and research about the subject and the occasion so that I will be able to converse with other colleagues or guests about the business at hand or the charity event I am attending. Advance planning will also provide information on how to dress appropriately. So let preparation be your mantra. It is the key element to feeling confidant and comfortable in any business or social occasion.
PREPARATION Very often people come to a meeting so totally unprepared that they cannot make a contribution to the proceedings. You don’t want to be caught ‘asleep at the switch,” so to speak. When I first entered the corporate world I learned that fact the hard way. I was in such a fuzz about the whole discussion that when the president of the company was discussing the fiber ‘polyester’ I piped up, “Yes, Mr. Garson,” as I thought that he had spoken my first name, Polly. “Do you have something to add?” he said looking at me over his bifocals which had slid down his nose. I awkwardly replied, “Not at the moment.” That embarrassing episode taught me a severe lesson. After his disdainful look and a few muffled guffaws by my colleagues I vowed stay alert and never to be unprepared again. So I humbly told you this little tale because I have become a beacon of preparedness ever since, and so should you.
BACKGROUNDER TIPS Remember that whatever the occasion first tap into the research you did previously about the event. Whether it is a business or social occasion you’ll want to appear to be more than a “Yes,” man or woman. It’s a good idea to know about the purpose of the event and why you are involved and invited. If you have worked on one of the committees don’t be shy, mention your participation. Find out about the speaker or the celebrities or individuals who may be honored at the event. Not only will you impress others with your preparedness but you’ll have more reason to speak to other individuals and discuss current business or world news. Maybe you might even catch the eye of an executive who may want to eventually invite you to become a team player in their company. Better yet you may just find that Mr. Right is sufficiently impressed to ask you for a date.
INFILTRATING THE CIRCLE It is sometimes difficult to break into a conversation circle that seems to have closed its ranks to newcomers. If you find this is the case, you may still have a chance to be recognized. Just hover nearby and wait for someone to notice you and invite you to join them. If within a few moments this does not happen don’t slink away just regally walk away and try another conversation group. Sometimes I find it best to merely introduce myself to an individual who seems to be alone, like myself. I look them square in the eye and start the conversation off with a firm handshake while smiling in a friendly manner. Usually, this individual will be glad that you singled them out and you may be presently surprised when they will introduce you to other like-minded people.
TALK, TALK, TALK Being talkative is a good thing, but do not overdue it and monopolize the situation. Once you have center stage in a conversation circle be sure to engage other people into the conversation. Ask questions and let them reply and have the floor, so to speak. Keep up good eye contact and smile even if someone is somewhat boring. Take particular note of an introverted individual who merely stands by on the fringes of the conversation circle or a wife who seems to be rather quiet. Try to engage either one of them in the discussion as well and watch how much they appreciate your interest. It’s just good manners and someone will invariably say about your talent for being polite, “Isn’t she charming.” However, if someone who you are addressing seems to be distracted or their eyes are roving around the room, take the clue and simply say, “It was nice to meet you,” and move out of their orbit and onto the next conversation circle to find a more welcoming and interesting group of people.
DRESSING FOR THE OCCASION Many women make the mistake of wearing something brand new to the office without giving the outfit a trial run beforehand. In order to make the best impression in the corporate sector you want to feel confidant and comfortable. The week before or the night before an important business meeting put on the entire ensemble: blouse, suit, jewelry, the shoes, handbag, gloves and coat that you will be wearing, and stand before a full length mirror. Survey the affect and ascertain what has to be eliminated or adjusted. For example, accessories like costume jewelry may have to be eliminated for a more conservative earrings and broach. Killer high heel shoes may not be appropriate with the suit, and while you’re at it check the hemline of the skirt, sit down and be sure that the hemline is at a length that provides modest coverage. Check the blouse. Is there a gaping window at the button closure? If so a tiny hidden safety pin can hold the closure in place. Well, you get the point. Be your most severe critic and always be fashionably correct.
FASHION EVALUATION In these days when most of us do not have a ‘Lady’s Maid,” to assist us in dressing you can do a self-evlauation of the entire outfit. Before the company dinner, party or gala event I suggest that you try on the entire ensemble from the hairdo and hair ornament right down to the underwear to evaluate the look and to be sure that all the pieces work perfectly together. If not, eliminate or add something more effective. I did just that recently before a gala dinner in Rio de Janiero, Brazil during an International Art Deco conference. I tried on my dressy outfit only to discover that I had a deep décolleté top but that I had forgotten to take a strapless bra. Fortunately I had a black elongated chiffon scarf and was able to tie it in place to create a more modest plunge. The dressy shoes were a problem and I could not attach the buckle because the holes in the strap were too small. So out came my mini scissors and I inserted the point to enlarge the holes, making it easier to attach the strap. Having performed this costume evaluation and its accoutrement in advance I avoided becoming anxious or worse being late the night of the occasion.
ONE LAST WORD TO THE WISE. IF YOU NEVER WANT TO APPEAR TIPSY DON’T OVERINDULGE IN THE WINE OR COCKTAILS BEING PASSED. IT’S EVEN A GOOD IDEA TO FORTIFY YOURSELF AND TO EAT SOMETHING BEFOREHAND, EVEN IF IT IS A BANANA. FOR ONE THING AT A DINNER GALA, FOR EXAMPLE, THE MEAL MIGHT BE SERVED LATE. ALWAYS BE IN CONTROL OF YOURSELF AND CHECK THE MIRROR IN THE LADIES WHEN YOU ARRIVE TO BE SURE YOUR IMAGE LIVES UP TO MAKING A SPLENDID FIRST IMPRESSION. LIFT YOU HEAD UP HIGH, STRAIGHTEN YOUR POSTURE AND ENTER THE EVENT FULLY AWARE THAT YOU ARE CONFIDANT AND GOING TO HAVE A GREAT TIME.