How Important is Presentation? - [website] Email Print
Published: 3rd of Oct 2019 by: Carolyn Kessler

Does the way you look make a difference to how people receive the information you’re wanting them to take on board?

This question can prove to be somewhat controversial. How dare anyone judge you on the way you look? I'm not referring to how good looking you are - I'm referring to how "put together" you appear to be. Your presentation includes your grooming, your body language, how you use your words and whether or not you come across as an open and genuine person.

Well-groomed can and does differ across industries and/or organisations. In a young, advertising environment, purple hair could be totally acceptable.... The same would not apply to a more conservative corporate environment. However, despite these obvious differences, the requirement to look presentable still applies. You may be able to wear jeans to work each day, but they need to be in good condition and not the same pants you'd lounge in around at home....

In days gone by, I worked in environments where women weren't allowed to wear trousers, no sleeveless tops, stockings and stilettos were the order of the day. We complied because it was a requirement of our jobs. Whether or not it was fair didn't come into it. Men had to wear suits and ties, no short-sleeved shirts and despite how hot it was - they had to wear jackets. We can debate at some length the merits of these rulings, but the reason they were in place revolved around the image the company wanted to project. The same principle applies today, despite the relaxation of many of these rigorous rules, you are always representing your company and yourself. Dress accordingly.

It is said that we decide whether or not we trust a person within 3 seconds of making their acquaintance. How does this happen? It happens because we read the body language of someone else instinctively - before we even hear what they have to say, we've decided if they're acceptable or not.

So, your body language speaks volumes. Are you open and approachable? The other person will read crossed arms and various other closed poses, as a stern instruction to "keep away". This will immediately colour how they hear you - they will naturally close themselves off too, mirroring your defensive action. And chances are that neither of you will be consciously aware this silent but eloquent exchange has set the tone for future communication. Once it has taken place, it's going to be that much harder to break through and gain co-operation.

The words you use come in third in this sequence. They count hugely, but they simply won't register until the customer or colleague has absorbed how you look and your body language. (The tone of your voice can be included with body language, however.) Once again, the way you say something is much more important than what you actually say. For anyone who has had a teenager roll their eyes whilst simultaneously agreeing to clean up their room, you will understand fully how effective body language is in getting the message across - the true message!

We are selling ourselves, our competencies, our suitability, every time we interact with someone else - most especially when the other person is a stranger. We simply can't afford to put them off before we've had the opportunity to show them who we really are.

We work with all aspects of presentation on our Presentation Skills course - including how to plan, compile and present to a group of people. How skilled are you in this area? Not many of us are naturally comfortable or effective in this scenario, yet all of us can learn how to present well.

Staff Training is a South African soft skills training provider with more than 60 workshops on offer.
Email us at for more info or give us a call at 0861 996 660

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