When you have been in school for most of your life, it can be challenging to turn the corner and recognize that it is no longer OK to wear T-shirts, sweatpants and flip flops on a daily basis. How you present yourself, your clothes, your posture, your nonverbal communications (facial gestures, eye contact, what you do with your hands, etc.), how you style your hair…it all really does matter to employers, to how you are perceived and ultimately, your professional reputation.
Below I've outlined just a few key communication skills which dramatically affect business etiquette behavior.
First Things First
The basics of professional etiquette are really quite simple. First, understand the difference between business etiquette and social etiquette. Business etiquette is genderless. For example, the traditional noble etiquette of holding the door open for a woman is not necessary in the workplace and can even have the unintended effect of offending her. In the work environment, men and women are peers.
What Exactly Are You Saying?
As we all know, first impressions are lasting and there is usually not a second chance to elicit a first impression. And, you never have to even open your mouth.
What does how you stand say about you? Studies show that some women tend to make themselves smaller when in conversations with men by crossing their ankles when standing; by drawing their shoulders inwards; and, by essentially "shrinking" in their space. Ladies, check the amount of personal space you take the next time you engage with your practice group leader or someone on your firm's management team. A healthy personal "space" is your feet standing parallel to your hips. This stance exudes confidence.
The Eyes Have It
People want to feel special. They want to feel as though you are speaking directly to them or that they are the most important person in the room during your conversation. How many times have you engaged someone only for he/her to look all about you (behind you, beside you, around you) but never settling on establishing eye contact with you? Not good. You don’t want to be the someone who is creating that same feeling for someone else. It takes practice and confidence, but the power of establishing and maintaining eye contact is like connecting with someone’s soul. Very powerful.
Mother Was Right – aka Stand Up Straight
I am often astonished at how many "young" folks slouch and have rounded shoulders. Of all the non-verbal communications skills, presenting a confident appearance and image hinges upon standing up straight. To do otherwise conveys negative messages such as "I don’t matter;" "I really don't want to be here;" and "I'm not interested in what you are saying." Make it a habit to check your posture each time you pass by a mirror. You may be shocked at what you see. Stand up straight, already.
My Personal Favorite – the Mumbling Moe
Maybe it's a function of the Internet age, social media, texting, or none of that, but not annunciating words properly and/or drifting off towards the end of a sentence is essentially sending the message that either you don't care about what you are saying or you don't care about to whom you are speaking. Either way, this behavior does not make a positive impression. Be mindful not only of what you are saying, but HOW you are speaking.
Each of these business communications etiquette skills requires making a conscious effort to pay attention to how you present yourself. You’ve worked hard to arrive at your specific professional station. Take pride in the positive professional reputation you are developing by minding your manners to mine your career.
Kimberly Alford Rice is principal of KLA Marketing Associates, a business development advisory firm focusing on legal services. As a law marketing authority, Kimberly helps law firms and lawyers develop practical business development and marketing strategies which lead directly to new clients and increased revenues. Additionally, Kimberly provides career management services to lawyers in transition. She may be reached at 609-458-0415 or via email at email@example.com.
The conference will include six presentations and begins at 8:15 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom of The Rittenhouse Hotel, 210 W. Rittenhouse Square. A total of 3.5 CLE credits are available.
The conference opens with the presentation "Cost Shifting and Cost Reduction - E-Discovery and Beyond" featuring U.S. District Court Judge Joel Slomsky and Steven E. Bizar and Anthony J. Bolognese.
U.S. District Court Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg, Ronald H. Levine, Catherine M. Recker and Peter F. Schenck will discuss "Criminal Discovery in the Aftermath of United States v. Ted Stevens." The Stevens case and the Department of Justice report on the "systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence" will be discussed for lessons learned and how the investigations and prosecutions of matters will be affected going forward.
In addition to a brief update of developments in civil law, a panel of judges and practitioners will discuss, among other things, proper preparation for case management conferences, should you really file a motion for summary judgment and how to make sure that newer attorneys get courtroom experience. The speakers for this program are U.S. District Court Judges Gene E.K. Pratter and Eduardo C. Robreno, along with Catherine B. Slavin and Matthew A. Taylor.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Curtis Joyner and U.S. Bankruptcy Court Chief Judge Stephen Raslavich, along with Clerk of Court Michael E. Kunz, will present reports on the state of the court.
U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III and J. Dennis Faucher will present "Mortals with Tremendous Responsibilities: A History of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania" where they will discuss Judge Bartle's book and the evolution of the court.
A lunch break follows and Judge Rendell's remarks close out the conference. Tuition includes course book, breakfast and lunch. Registrations received three or more business days before the presentation qualify for the early registration discount. Click here to register.