How to work a room with confidence

Confidence is at the core of professional presence. It is being comfortable in your own shoes. Many of us have experienced the dazzling impact of working with a consummate professional or watching someone seeming to navigate effortlessly at a business event. You may wonder, Is confidence in their DNA? Are they extroverts? Are they fearless? No. They’ve learned key skills to become confident, polished and effective. 

  • Introductions with impact: It’s basic and worth repeating: When you meet someone, smile, look them in the eye, extend your hand for a firm handshake, and use your first and last names. Yes, your full name. Unless your name is Adele, Beyoncé or Sting, most successful people introduce themselves with their full name. It is a part of the “brand of you.” If your name is difficult to pronounce, think of a mnemonic device to help people understand it. Recently, I met Jonathon Dreier who said, “My name is John Dreier, like a clothes dryer.” It’s an easy way to remember Jonathon’s name, and it’s a kindness to others to anticipate that they might not know how to pronounce his name, so he helps them in advance. 
  • Entering a conversation: Wait for a slight break or when people are laughing, and ask, “May I join you?” This exhibits your confidence. No need to apologize by saying, “Sorry to interrupt.” What if you’re the person who is in the conversation? How do you welcome someone else? No matter how confident you are, it can feel awkward to be left out. Extend your hand to bring them in, and say, “Come join us. We were just talking about …” People will remember this gracious gesture, which immediately welcomes them to the group. 
  • Exiting a conversation: Acknowledge what the other person has said, pause, give the farewell handshake with a parting comment and then move on. Remember, the first handshake is for “hello.” The second handshake is the classic nonverbal cue that the conversation is coming to a close. You can say, “Well, Taylor, I don’t want to monopolize your time. I know there are lots of people here you want to see, so I’ll let you go. Great talking with you. Take care.” 

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