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Present Yourself Powerfully

When I hear the phrase "Present Yourself Powerfully," I immediately think about public speaking. Yet, presenting yourself powerfully isn't limited to just giving formal presentations or performing chair massage at public events.

Everything you do and say contributes to your overall image. Presenting yourself powerfully means exuding an image of confidence, compassion and professionalism. This is important when speaking one-on-one with current clients in your office or on the telephone, informally talking to potential clients, as well as giving formal presentations. Presenting yourself powerfully translates into increased self-satisfaction and improved career success.

The key elements to enhance your image are your communication skills, vocabulary and grammar, marketing and presentation materials, presence, and self-confidence.

Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is a belief in one's powers or abilities. Self-confident people project an air of competency. They are positive, balanced, and immerse themselves in living their lives. Self-confidence comes from your feelings about yourself, feedback from others, and your achievements. You demonstrate your self-confidence in your practice by greeting people with a handshake, smiling, maintaining good eye contact, enunciating properly, introducing yourself in a clear and engaging manner, and dressing appropriately. Do keep in mind that different cultures hold varying norms of what is considered polite behavior.

A tip for increasing self-confidence when talking with clients and potential clients is to write scripts on topics that cause you discomfort, and rehearse responding to those topics. Start by creating a list of questions people ask you, policies (e.g., rates, missed appointments), and procedures, such as scheduling. Write what you want to say and practice saying it until the words easily roll off your tongue.

Preparation

You boost your confidence by being prepared. In your hands-on work with clients, this means being punctual, setting up the room before a client arrives (unless you do on-site massage), and reviewing the client's chart in advance. If you are working with a client who has a health condition that you don't know much about or your work isn't producing the desired results, research the condition and look for other massage protocols you can use.

Preparation is critical when doing any type of public appearance. The steps are the same if you are giving a 20-minute talk for a local group or if you're facilitating a 2-day workshop: research your audience; determine the key points you want to make; outline your presentation; create audio-visuals; and practice, practice, practice.

Sometimes the preparation is not so much about what you are going to do, as what you need to bring. For instance, let's say you are giving chair massage at a public event. You reduce your stress and increase your self-confidence if you set up your environment to support you and your clients. In addition to your chair, face covers, antiseptic solution, intake forms, sign-up sheet and pens, consider bringing water and snacks, a large umbrella, your promotional materials, and a place to display your promotional and other written materials. When your physical structure supports you, it will be easier to do the massages and promote your practice. Always keep business cards with you. You never know when you'll meet a potential client—it could be when you are standing in line at the store or while attending a social event.

Build your self-confidence by focusing on your accomplishments. Make the following lists and periodically review them: your personal strengths and abilities; your professional strengths and abilities; your major achievements; the specific benefits clients have achieved working with you.

Communication Skills

Good communication is the foundation of healthy relationships and thriving practices. In fact, one of the common threads of highly successful practitioners is effective communication skills. Advanced technical skills and business savvy are simply not enough. Without good communication skills, the growth of your business is likely to lag.

Communication skills are also known as "people skills" because, at its best, communicating involves connecting with people in positive and productive ways. As you enhance your skills in this area, you can expect to increase productivity, reduce stress and improve teamwork. You can also build stronger client relationships and minimize the potential for misunderstandings with colleagues, co-workers and clients. However, the greatest benefit manifests in clients who feel at ease and experience high levels of satisfaction with your work.

Skillful communication is a two-way process that involves an exchange of ideas, emotions and attitudes. The ultimate goal of communication is to elicit some type of action. The communication skills necessary in effective therapeutic relationships are the ability to establish rapport, listen to answers, effectively utilize communication technology, be patient, make astute observations, elicit information, ask open-ended questions, gain cooperation, conduct excellent interviews, ask for input, assert boundaries, use active listening techniques and show genuine concern.

Vocal Qualities

Your vocal qualities, such as timbre, pacing and volume impact your communications. The energy in your voice conveys your sincerity. Practice speaking from your diaphragm to raise and lower the pitch and volume. Moderate the inflection and energy you use and the rate and rhythm at which you speak. Avoid ending your sentences in a raised voice, unless you are asking a question. Articulate clearly. If you have an accent, take extra care in pronouncing your name. Most people say their names too quickly, and if it's also hard to understand, your listeners will be spending the next several minutes trying to figure out your name and miss whatever else you are telling them. Also, avoid fillers such as "um," "uh," "er"and "you know."

Taking the time and effort to enhance your communication skills will serve you well. Like any skill, achieving a degree of mastery takes practice—and in this case, a willingness to take a fresh look at your communication style and behaviors.

Visit Mind Tools for a 15-question Communication Quiz.

Vocabulary and Grammar

Now we explore the key points on what to say. Choose your words carefully. The rapport you build and the credibility you establish are either enhanced or diminished by your vocabulary and grammar. Be certain the language you use is appropriate to the listener, and is friendly yet not overly personal. Avoid street slang and overly formal language. Only use technical terminology when you know the listener will understand (e.g., giving a presentation to a group of physicians).

Only use technical terminology when you know the listener will understand what you are saying. The terminology you use when speaking to a group of young athletes will be different than what you use when giving a presentation to a group of physicians, for example.

Written Communications

Vocabulary and grammar are even more important with written communications. Grammar mistakes, especially, are much more prominent in writing. Always check spelling and punctuation. Unfortunately, just using "Spellcheck" isn't sufficient, in that it won't flag a word if it is spelled correctly yet is not the word you want to use. Imagine the negative impact if you sent a marketing piece with typographical errors! Many people are a bit gracious with an obvious slip-of-the-key typo, particularly in e-mails, but not when the word is incorrect. I would say the two most common incorrect usage of words that reduce credibility are their/there and its/it's.

Marketing and Presentation Materials

Your visual marketing materials reflect the character of your business. Make sure that your marketing materials are appropriate and attractive to your target market(s). Invest in high-quality business cards, and always keep them on hand—as they are the most common method used in one-on-one promotions. Not having cards most definitely reduces your credibility.

Print Materials

The range of marketing collateral you need depends on the type of work you do, the people you work with, and where the work is done. Basic print materials include:

Some practitioners also have additional promotional materials, such as signs, posters, doorhangers, displays, personalized gift items, and informational dvds.

Websites and Social Media

An online presence is critical in presenting yourself powerfully. At the very minimum this means having a website. The majority of people search online for information—as is witnessed by the decline of printed phone directories. Many practitioners are active in social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Exercise caution and restraint when using social media. For instance, use Privacy settings and create groups on Facebook so that only your friends can see "personal" information and photos. Be judicious in what you post. Keep in mind that whatever you post on these sites can easily be seen by millions of people. Better yet, create two distinct profiles- one for your personal friends and family, and one for professional relationships, including clients and potential clients.

Presence

Have you ever walked into a room and felt the "presence" of someone who strikes you as powerful? Sometimes it can be difficult to determine what created this sensation. The foundation of a powerful presence is being present. This entails really listening to people, looking at them while talking, avoiding distractions (e.g. turn off cell phone ringers, refrain from chewing gum), and talking less.

If you feel you are challengeed in the area of personal presence– if you feel you are not confident in meeting people or nervous about speaking to people you don't know invest in a self-help course, support group or books and dvd's on improving confidence and connection to others to help get in touch with your true, powerful nature.

Body Language

Body language immensely contributes to your presence It may reinforce what you are saying, send a contradictory message, or signal something important that hasn't been verbalized. Body language includes your posture, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, movement, and the distance you place between yourself and another person.

Maintain good posture when standing and sitting. Keep your stance upright yet open. Good posture projects that you are confident and comfortable. As a massage therapist, people expect you to model agility and good posture n all situations. Poor posture often communicates a lack of confidence or disinterest. Additionally, demonstrating good posture is extremely important when giving presentations. All eyes are on you and you lose credibility if you have poor posture.

Increase your impact by matching your body language to key points of your message. Think like a choreographer! For instance while describing how a particular technique reduces stress, move your arms from your sides, keep your palms downward and at a slight angle (with the thumbs superior), slowly bringing your hands so your thumbs and index fingers gently touch. Then lower your hands several inches. Have fun with this. The effective use of gestures engages people and improves communication.

Appearance

First impressions are powerful—and often irreversible, and the first thing most people notice when they meet you is your appearance. Present yourself powerfully by dressing appropriately, being well groomed and maintaining high standards of hygiene.

Dress stylishly yet modestly, and choose clothing that is comfortable, clean, and isappropriate to the work environment. Ideally, create a work wardrobe that does not include your non-working clothes. Keep jewelry to a minimum, particularly when doing massage. Keep in mind that your attire isn't meant to be a distraction.

When giving a formal presentation (particularly if it involves a hands-on demonstration), consider wearing your typical work clothes with a jacket on top (that can be removed for the demonstration). Other times a more formal outfit, such as a suit, is more appropriate.

Good hygiene and grooming go hand in hand (pun intended). Keep your nails well manicured, cuticles trimmed, and skin moisturized. Make sure your hair is clean and doesn't contact your client: you may need to pull it back, clip it or wear a headband. If you wear makeup, apply it conservatively. Avoid perfume or cologne, as many people have chemical sensitivities. Pay attention to your breath and body odor.

The Next Steps

While you can't control what people feel about you, you can definitely do things to help present yourself powerfully. Note the areas you want to improve and create a plan of action. Do the suggested activities and discuss them with a colleague. Go through your clothing and olny keep items that project your desired image. Consider joining a group, such as Toastmasters, to help you polish your public speaking skills.

Stay grounded in who you are and the benefits of your work. Your enthusiasm and compassion set the foundation for presenting yourself powerfully.

Public Speaking Tips

Here are my thoughts on projecting a positive image when presenting. Feel free to do what you want with them in terms of using them in pieces and parts or leaving them complete.

  1. Find what you love about your topic.

    There is no such thing as a "dry" topic, yet plenty of speakers are stumped when it comes to making their presentations engaging. There's something about your presentation topic that you love and feel passionate about. Dig deep and find it, and then use it in your presentation.

    Find the humor, the personal stories, the analogies to your audience's lives. Seek out the aspects of your topic that are universal and that your audience can connect to, and your presentation will shine, no matter how clinical or technical it may be.

  2. Never apologize.

    We've all heard a speaker stand up and say, "I'm sorry—I'm really nervous. I'm not good at this." Here's why this is a terrible idea:

    1. To be blunt, your audience doesn't care. They are there for their own enrichment, and your problems are not interesting to them.
    2. You have just drawn attention to something that the audience probably would never have noticed. Now they're on the lookout for your nerves.
    3. It just creates negative energy instead of positive energy. Most mistakes you make will never be noticeable to an audience, so don't bother apologizing for something they don't see anyway. Stay positive and, if you do make a visible error, briefly explain, have a laugh and move on.
  3. View mishaps as part of the deal.

    When we give presentations, there are a lot of things that could go wrong. Technology might fail. You might lose your place. You might not bring enough handouts. You might run out of time.

    These things happen. But many speakers dwell on the "what ifs" and allow a big buildup of anxiety about what could go wrong. Instead, plan and prepare for things to go wrong, "just in case." Bring extra handouts. Have notes nearby in case you lose your place. Bring a countdown timer with you so you can keep track of how much time you have left. Have extra batteries on hand so that, if your presentation remote runs out of juice, you can be back in business in a flash.

    Also, it's important to remember that you can't control everything. Sometimes there's just a glitch, and you have to roll with it.

    Audiences don't expect you to be perfect. They're human. You're human. But they do expect you to handle mistakes with poise and humor, not to fall apart at the slightest problem. Be prepared for anything, and keep your sense of humor about presentation mishaps. They'll make a good story someday.

  4. Embrace your unique qualities.

    Each of us has qualities that make us unique. We have our own style of speaking, our own sense of humor, our own way of expressing ourselves. This is what makes us stand out from the crowd as a speaker. So why would you even think of trying to be like someone else?

    The second you begin to copy another speaker's mannerisms, speech patterns, presentation style or anything else that's not you, you lose your self. The audience won't connect with you, because you are too busy trying to be someone else. You will come across as canned, artificial and inauthentic.

    Embrace your uniqueness: your flaws, your creativity of expression, your look, your personality, your humor. Your audience will appreciate getting to know you a little and will better relate to you and your topic.

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Last updated: September 7, 2011
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