Neels & Company - 

Strategic Business Communication
Trusted Advisor
Gretchen Neels

Neels, President, Neels & Company

Dear Trusted Advisor

When I attend business dinners, I’m often served food I don’t like. Do I have to eat what’s served, or am I allowed to ask if a substitution is available?
S.R., Boston, MA

Dear S.R.:
Business dinners and networking events are about getting to know new people, showcasing your abilities and making connections. They are never about the food. Eat before you go, and focus on making great conversation with others without bringing attention to your dislike of what’s in front of you. Usually there’s something on the plate you can nibble on or move around a bit. It’s just one meal – let it go and concentrate on making some new friends.



Listen to the 30-minute webcast, “Ladies: Stand and Deliver” FREE! ($45 value) thanks to our partner, West Legal Edcenter. Other available Core Skills Thursday programs include “Public Speaking 101,” “Building Professional Relationships,” and “He Said, She Said – Gender-Based Differences in Conversational Styles.”

Total Image Management® Seminars, a two-day professional development program for professional women, are coming to Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, DC and Atlanta this fall. Click here for more details. Read what has to say about TIM.

If your organization is looking for a high-quality professional development program for new hires, check out The New Professional’s Guide to Success. This 90-minute self- paced audio program takes the mystery out of what it means to be a professional in a client- services oriented environment. Click here for more information or call 800-975-7031 x 701.


The Personal 


Many professionals know that in order to gain a foothold over the competition, especially these days, they’ve got to present themselves as five-star material. They must convey competence and confidence when they meet potential clients and prospective customers, making the most of their one opportunity to make a great first impression.

Well tailored suit and appropriate blouse? Check. Shiny shoes and matching belt? Check. Strong handshake, good posture, business cards and fresh breath? Check.

But hardly anyone gives a thought to their voice. Studies show that while 55% of a first impression is made up of visual impressions – the suit, the shoes, the smile - a whopping 38% of data captured by others, and subsequently used to decide if one is indeed someone who could earn their business, is based on voice. A measly 7% is left over for the actual words themselves.

Vocal quality isn’t an area even Stacy and Clinton venture into as they transform meek little Matilda into a corporate powerhouse by way of a better fitting bra, more mascara and higher heels. Once Matilda accepts the dynamic duo’s fashion guidance she becomes magnificent, but the transformation is short lived when she tilts her head, twirls a lock, and says in that squeaky, high-pitched tone, “I’m sorry guys, you were right, I look great in this!”

While a well modulated, easy-on-the-ears voice is an asset when first meeting someone, the ability to use one’s voice to share information, persuade and connect with colleagues, clients and customers is essential. A soft voice easily gets lost in meetings, but when Ms. Tentative prefaces statements with, “Maybe it’s just me, but...,” or “I feel that perhaps...,” and the old standby, “Sorry, but what if....,” she’s summarily ignored.

In our Total Image Management® seminars, women learn how they can assert themselves without appearing overly aggressive – always the fine line for female execs to walk. Here are three keys to improving the chances of being heard:

Record and listen to your voice. Tape yourself while you’re speaking in a meeting if at all possible, letting the tape run for at least 30 minutes. Are you guilty of ending sentences with a rising intonation, making statements sound like questions? Are you too tentative? Is your voice hard to hear? Is your speech heavy with verbal graffiti? Now’s the time to start making changes.

Manage your body language. A tilted head combined with wide eyes and a whispering voice can come across as flirtatious, or worse, juvenile. Sit up straight and tall at the conference table with both feet on the floor and hands on the table. Lean slightly forward when you add to the discussion, and square your shoulders – instead of just turning your head – when you speak to others.

Share your enthusiasm. Of course you’ve got to have great ideas and meaningful contributions to make in order to show people you’re a serious player, but do so with conviction and confidence. Use the range of your voice to convey excitement, sincerity, passion and belief. Replace timid-sounding openings, such as, “I think this program will work,” with “This program will work because...” and then show them what you’ve got.

© 2009 Neels & Company, Inc. - All Rights Reserved

We are the leading provider of soft skills training to professional services firms, covering all areas of business communication.

Neels & Company, Inc. – Strategic Business Communication
P. O. Box 623, Boston, MA 02117
800-975-7031 ext. 701
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