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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


4.17.2018

Tell Tales: Bring Your Presentation To Life

Consider these experiences:

--During one of our Sunday walks, my husband commented that I was interrupting him. I apologized. Yet a few minutes later, he interrupted me. I asked, with a smile on my face, “How come I am not allowed to interrupt you, but you can interrupt me?” His response: “Is there a right answer to that question?”

--A woman in one of my seminars told me about a delivery man who routinely walked into the office where she worked and greeted the women with "Hi, Hot Mommas.” One of her coworkers told him: “Please don't call me ‘Hot Momma,’ regardless of whether I am or not."  The next day, the man again visited the office and said, "Hi, Hot Mommas" – and then pointed to the woman who had confronted him and added “...except for you.”

My presentations include many stories, and the examples above will find their way into some of my future seminars. Good stories reinforce and/or prove your key points. They create a picture for your audience, bringing to life the information you want to convey and making it much more memorable than a recitation of statistics or data.

Following the steps below will help you to add stories to your presentations:

1. View your experiences as opportunities to find stories. Very few of my seminar participants forget my story of going to the bathroom with my mic on. I use it to illustrate the point that it’s not what happens to you that matters, it is how you handle what happens to you. Every story doesn’t have to be as extreme as my mic incident. You will soon build a reservoir of potential stories if:

• You observe something that illustrates a point in your presentation. 

• Someone says, “That happened to me…” in response to some point you are making. That person’s anecdote can add another voice to your information.

• You reference someone in an article or book, or on a website, who proves your point.

2. Keep a story file. Write down or copy just enough detail of the story material so you will remember what happened. Keep this information in an electronic file or in an old-fashioned manila folder so the story will be readily available.

3. Prepare the story. When you start to put your presentation together, go to your file and choose appropriate examples to support your points. Don’t use people’s names, unless you have their approval or the person is clearly a public figure. Don’t criticize or belittle anyone, and don’t lie – but you can embellish the details a little for dramatic effect or to protect someone’s identity. However, never embellish specific details, such as statistics. Tread lightly with humor.  It can be effective, but it can also bomb badly.

4. Practice. In business presentations, shorter stories generally work best. Once you have chosen a story you want to use, practice saying it out loud, using as few words as necessary to convey your point.

The more you include stories in your presentations, the more comfortable you become using them. Additional information on presentation skills can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes. Happy Tales!  

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or my website:pachter.com
 
About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence.  (bpachter@pachter.com)  

3.11.2018

Look at the Camera! And 6 Other Tips for Posting Your Headshot

I couldn't make out his face.

She looks completely different from her photo.

I couldn't believe she had sunglasses on her head!


The comments above were made by business professionals about photographs accompanying profiles on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, many businesspeople post photographs of themselves on LinkedIn and other social media sites that detract from their professionalism.

I have written about this before, but it’s a message that bears repeating: Your professional image is conveyed through your photograph. It is part of the first impression you make on others. You should post a photograph that is professionally appropriate, and makes you look like a credible, approachable person – not like someone who just came from the gym.

In another life, I was a professional photographer – the first woman photographer at what was then one of the largest 10 newspapers in the country – so I offer the following as my recommended guidelines for photographs used in any business context:

1. Post a headshot – not an environmental portrait. Many sites ask for a profile photo. A headshot highlights your head/face, and usually shows your shoulders and part of your chest. You are the focus of the picture, and people can see you clearly in this type of shot. An environmental portrait places you in a setting that may relate to your profession, but your face is usually a smaller part of such a photograph. These pictures are often used as additional photos on a website, but are not recommended for headshot postings.

2. Look at the camera and keep your head straight. You should be looking directly at the person who is viewing your photo. Many women have a tendency to tilt their heads. Why? I don’t know. But don’t do it. You look less self-assured when you do.

3. Use a clear, uncluttered and well-lit setting. Don’t let the background overpower your image. You should be the point of the photo and people should be able to see you plainly. Check that there aren’t any dark shadows obscuring your face.

4. Make sure your face is in focus. The background may be slightly out of focus, but your features need to be sharply defined, not blurred. Let people see your eyes. Wearing dark glasses hides them. Have a pleasant facial expression. If you are frowning or scowling, why would I want to hire or work with you?

5. Wear appropriate professional or business-casual attire. Appear as you usually would in a business situation. This may mean that you are freshly shaven, or wearing make-up and jewelry. Do not let your accessories (earrings, necklace, glasses) overwhelm your headshot. Additional information on business dress can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success (McGraw-Hill).

6. Choose a recent photo that flatters you. Sounds obvious, but people don’t always pay attention to their choices. This does not mean you need a glamour shot, but you should look like a competent professional in the photograph. If your photo is more than 8 to 10 years old, people may be very surprised when they meet you.

7. Hire a professional photographer. If all of this seems overwhelming, hire someone who takes photos for a living. It’s worth the investment.

Below is my new corporate headshot taken by a professional photographer, Joey Del Palazzo. Let me know what you think.

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or my website:pachter.com
 
About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence. Pachter is also adjunct faculty in the School of Business at Rutgers University. (bpachter@pachter.com)  

2.18.2018

6 Tips To Encourage Questions From Your Audience



How do I get people in my audience to ask questions?
 
A vice president of a major healthcare company asked me this question during one of our coaching sessions on presentation skills.

No one had ever asked me that before!

Often presenters want to avoid anything to do with the Q&A segment of a presentation, but he wanted questions so he would know whether his audience had grasped his concepts. This desire for feedback is just one reason to encourage questions. There are others.

For example, you seem more approachable as a speaker when you take questions. Plus, how you answer the questions, and participate in any discussion that follows, can help explain and/or enhance your ideas and clarify any misunderstandings. In addition, the types of questions asked may let you know your participants’ opinions of your suggestions.

Try these 6 suggestions to encourage people to ask questions:

1. Let the audience know when you will be taking questions. Don’t assume your audience knows; tell them at the beginning of your talk. In a more informal talk or training session, participants may be encouraged to ask questions throughout. (“I’m open for questions throughout my presentation.”). Or, if the presenter doesn’t want to interrupt the flow, he or she can ask the audience: “Please save your questions until the end of my talk.”

2. Non-verbally encourage questions. Keep your body language open, and don’t cross your arms. Look at your audience. Move towards audience members when you can. Pause after you ask for questions – don’t rush to start talking. This gives the participants a few seconds to formulate their ideas. Additional information on nonverbal communication can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.

3. Use an open-ended question. If you say to your audience, “What questions do you have?,” you are telling participants you assume that they have questions and, as a result, they’re more likely to speak up. If you say, “Do you have any questions?,” it is easy for people to say “No.” 

4. Request questions on a specific topic. You can expand on the above open-ended question and pinpoint a particular area of your presentation. For example, if you have discussed the budget, you can ask, “What questions do you have about the new budget items?” Also, asking about something you just discussed can help you transition from one part of your talk to another.

5. Have participants write their questions and submit them beforehand. This can be effective with large audiences or audiences at remote locations. You can answer some of the questions during your presentation, or refer to them at the end.

6. Be prepared with your own first question. When you ask for questions and no one speaks up, you can offer one of your own by saying, “A question I am often asked is… .” Hearing you answer a question often makes audience members feel more comfortable asking questions of their own. Or, you might consider coordinating with a participant before your presentation, and arrange for that person to get things started by asking a specific question.

This blog addresses how to encourage questions from your audience. There’s a lot more to discuss about handling questions, including how to prepare for difficult ones. But that’s a blog for another day.   

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or my website:pachter.com
 
About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence. Pachter is also adjunct faculty in the School of Business at Rutgers University. (bpachter@pachter.com)  

2.04.2018

Don’t Whine About Your Job. Do Something!

My coworker hates her job. She keeps complaining to me. I have tried to talk to her about what she could do, but she is not listening.
 
My husband keeps threatening to quit his job. He only comments negatively about his job and the people who work with him. I wish he would just do something.

My friend was having difficulty with her schedule, but she didn’t go to her boss to discuss alternatives. She just quit. When I had a problem, my boss adjusted my schedule. My friend’s might have been adjusted, too, if she had said something.


As these comments from participants in my seminars indicate, tackling problems that affect our work lives can be difficult.

When some people become dissatisfied with their work, they do nothing. Perhaps they don’t know how to proceed, or maybe they don’t believe there is anything they can do to improve the situation. Usually, the only action they take is to whine about their bosses, their colleagues, or the work. 

Unfortunately, complaining doesn’t accomplish anything – except having your friends, colleagues and others stay clear of you.

Some, on the other hand, get so frustrated that they impulsively quit their jobs without having another lined up, or without even a plan for the future.
 
Both reactions can affect your career negatively. However, there is an alternative that can help people evaluate their work situations. Answering the following four questions encourages people to take action and decide their next steps. 

1. Ask yourself, what is the real issue? It is easy to say, “I hate my job,” but it is important to identify why. What is the real issue that is causing you to be unhappy? Be honest and be specific. Is it the type of work you do, or just one aspect of the job? Is it the commute, the money, your boss, the people you work with, or any number of other causes? One man I coached liked most of the facets of his job, but wanted to quit because he had to make frequent presentations. Another realized that her new position involved using unfamiliar technology, which made her feel uncomfortable and unqualified.  

2. Can you solve the problem? Now that you have identified the issue, is there something that can be done? Is there a realistic solution? If so, what do you have to lose by asking for it? Make the case for your suggestion, including any benefits to your department or to the company. One woman realized that she liked her job, but it was the commute that was driving her crazy. She asked her boss if she could work from home two days a week. Once she assured her boss that her productivity wouldn’t be affected, she was successful in having her schedule changed. Remember that if you don’t speak up, chances are nothing will change. 

3. Are there advantages to this job? If you can’t solve the problem, think about what you are gaining from the position.  Don’t just quickly say, “Nothing.” Here are four possible things to consider: 

--Is the job a stepping stone?  Will you need the skills you gain from this position to qualify for a job on the next rung of the ladder? One of my early jobs involved working for a horrible boss. Yet I stayed until I had gained the experience I needed, and then I left.   

--Is there any education or training perk to which you have access? Some companies will fund part or all of your ongoing education. This can be a major benefit for many people. 

--Who are you meeting? Does the job allow you to interact with people and build your network? If so, it is possible that by having a strong network, additional job opportunities will come your way.

--Can you learn to manage your boss? Learning to work with difficult people is an important skill that almost certainly will be beneficial to you at some point in your career.

4. Is it time to start a job search? Depending on how you answer the above questions, you may decide that it is time to start looking for a new position. You may even decide to change careers. Any number of alternatives may now be available to you. This doesn’t mean you just quit your job. Generally, it is best to look for a new job (or career) while you are still working at the old one. Information on conducting a thorough job search can be found in my recent book The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.   

Whether you decide to stay at your current job or to look for a new one, feel good about your choice. You are doing something: You have taken charge of your career.



I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or my website:pachter.com
 
About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence. Pachter is also adjunct faculty in the School of Business at Rutgers University. (bpachter@pachter.com) 

1.21.2018

I'm sorry, I can't apologize

A colleague missed an appointment with a vendor. She called the vendor to apologize. Thinking about the conversation later, she realized that she had said “I’m sorry” numerous times. She called me to ask if you can say “I’m sorry” too much.

Surprisingly, I said “Yes.” Since I teach etiquette, I would never tell anyone to be rude. If you trip someone, spill coffee (or anything else) on someone, or inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings, it is appropriate to say “I’m sorry.” If you work in customer service, saying you are sorry may be part of your job description. However, my friend touched on one of several areas where people (often women, but men as well) overuse “I’m sorry,” and, as a result, hurt their professional image.

Consider the following points, and ask yourself if you do any of these:

1. Repeat “I’m sorry” numerous times. If you say “I’m sorry,” say it only once. Are you any sorrier the sixth time than you were the first time? Of course not. A long time ago, I was a “serial apologizer.” I would repeat “I’m sorry” so often that my friends joked that on my gravestone they would put, “I’m sorry, I can’t apologize.”

2. Put yourself down. Using such phrases as “I’m sorry to bother you” or “I’m sorry to disturb you” can bring into question your self-esteem. Why are you a “bother”? Your work is valuable, also. Instead of apologizing, you can say assertively, “Excuse me. Do you have a minute?”

3. Take responsibility for something that isn’t your fault. If you say “I’m sorry,” you are implying that you are the one to blame. A man returned from lunch and said, “It’s raining outside.” His colleague responded, “I’m sorry,” as if the rain were her responsibility. If she wanted to say something, she could have made a neutral comment, such as “I hear the rain will continue all day.” In other situations, you can explain. Instead of, “I’m sorry I missed the meeting,” one manager said, “I had every intention of joining you, but my day took a different turn.” She then explained that she had been involved in a minor car accident. (Note that this was not a fabricated excuse, but the actual reason she had missed the meeting.)

4. Say “I’m sorry” when it is your fault. This occurs when you have done something that you shouldn’t have done, such as giving out the wrong information. Many of my seminar participants struggle with this issue.

Some believe strongly that saying “I’m sorry” is the polite thing to do. I like the way my husband, the lawyer, defends this stance. He believes that if you cause someone “adverse consequences,” you should say “I’m sorry.”

Others believe strongly that you need only acknowledge the mistake, and that it is not necessary to apologize. (Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the lead character of the popular TV show NCIS, has a series of rules to live by, one of which is, “Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness.”)

One CEO told me that when his employees say “I’m sorry,” he thinks they are asking him for forgiveness. He would much rather they admit the problem and tell him how they plan to fix it. Consider these two responses: “I’m so sorry I messed up,” or, “You are right. I made a mistake. It won’t happen again.” (Additional tips on word choice can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)     

I’m sorry (no, I’m not!) if you don’t like either of those choices. There is another alternative. According to author Rachel Vincent: “Chocolate says ‘I’m sorry’ so much better than words.”

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or my website:pachter.com

About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence. Pachter is also adjunct faculty in the School of Business at Rutgers University. (bpachter@pachter.com) 

1.07.2018

What’s in a title? Six tips to help you stop undermining women

Why are female doctors introduced by first name while men are called ‘Doctor’?

This provocative headline was on a Washington Post article a few months ago that featured two women physicians at the Mayo Clinic who had noticed that their male colleagues were usually introduced at conferences as “Doctor So-and-so.” But the two women and other female doctors were often introduced by their first names, when the person introducing them was a man.

Is this a big deal?  Yes. I believe it is.

How people address you and what you call yourself really do matter. Names – and titles – have power. Names and titles may confer dignity, or take it away. They influence how you are perceived, and whether people take you seriously.

Though unequal introductions may not be on the same level as eliminating sexual harassment or the gender pay-gap, it is a communication concern with negative implications for women. Denying professionals the prestige that a title conveys is a subtle way of undermining them.

Whom would you take more seriously, or believe was more competent: “Dr. Tom Jones” or “Sally Smith”? It seems obvious that it would be the person with the title, because that testifies to his training and professionalism.

Both men and women can benefit from the following suggestions about names and titles. They will help you to stop negatively influencing others’ perception of women, even inadvertently. These tips also apply when you are writing emails.

1. Use a woman’s title. Some organizations are very informal with names, but if professional titles are typically used in your organization, refer to women by theirs, such as Dr. (Sally) Jones.

2. Be consistent with your use of titles. Use professional titles equally for both men and women. If you are mentioning a man by his title, such as Doctor Jones or Professor Smith, refer to a woman the same way. This is valid whether you are giving a speaker introduction, introducing someone to other people at the office or in social situations, or simply mentioning people in informal discussions.

3. Refer to friends/colleagues by their titles when in business settings. You may have a great relationship with Dr. Jones and use her first name when you are together. When you are with other people, however, you should refer to her by her title. You are recognizing her achievement in front of others. If you do not do this, you are establishing a norm that tells people it’s okay for them to call her by her first name. And that may not be the case. (This also applies to men.)

4. Be consistent with the honorific ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ This is similar to the second item. If you say or write, “Mr. Williams,” do the same for the woman, “Ms. Jones.” This conveys a level of respect for both parties. You do not want to say something like, “Mr. Williams and Karen went to the meeting.” In an informal setting you might also use first names for both, such as “Tom and Karen went to the meeting.”  

5. Refer to women in the workplace as ‘women.’ Businessmen aren’t referred to as boys; businesswomen shouldn’t be referred to as girls. The words “girls” and “boys” indicate children. I know, I know, you are going to say that it’s intended as a compliment, or it’s a way of expressing camaraderie, as in “girls’ night out” or “the girls I work with in the office.” But ultimately it fosters a less-professional image for women.  

6. Do not refer to a woman by a nickname or shorter form of her first name —unless you are asked to do so. Children are often called by nicknames. And many shortened names do not have the same standing as full names. My name is Barbara. Do not call me “Barb,” and definitely not “Barbie.”  This situation can be tricky. Sometimes people, especially high-power people, will use their nicknames to seem friendly and more approachable. Christine Todd Whitman, the first woman governor of New Jersey and former head of the EPA, will often refer to herself as Christie Whitman. (Her current website is www.christiewhitman.com.)

Men also can be influenced by shortened names. According to a story about basketball legend Michael Jordan on the CBS show 60 Minutes a few years ago, he went from being called “Mike Jordan” to “Michael Jordan” after he scored the winning basket in the 1982 NCAA championship game.

Start paying attention to your word choices. Though you may not be doing everything mentioned here, you may be surprised at how you refer to women. Additional information on communication can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.

I post regularly on communication and etiquette.  We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and my website: www.pachter.com

About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence. Pachter is also adjunct faculty in the School of Business at Rutgers University. (bpachter@pachter.com) 

11.30.2017

Fighting back – literally – against harassment

How does this assertiveness course apply to the sexual harassment concerns in our workplaces today?

I have tried to stay away from heated topics in this blog, but since I was asked the question above in my assertiveness class last week, I decided it was time to comment publicly.

I told the participants in my class that what we talk about in the seminar can be helpful – to a degree. Assertiveness means not presenting yourself as a victim – using your posture to stand tall, your words to speak out, and your voice to speak up loudly. But, ultimately, eliminating harassment in our workplaces requires numerous actions.

After her co-host Charlie Rose was accused of harassment recently, television journalist Norah O’Donnell said on her show, CBS This Morning: "This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and more generally the safety of women. Let me be very clear: There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive. ... This I know is true: women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or in society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility.”

Many things can be done to help women – and men – feel safe. Having a sexual harassment policy in the workplace and providing training to employees about sexual harassment are two important actions. I also believe that teaching women (and girls) to fight – encouraging them to learn how to defend themselves physically – can be a key component of empowering women and decreasing harassment, in the workplace and elsewhere.

I was sexually assaulted when I was 10 years old. 

During a camp trip to an amusement park, while I was walking through one of the attractions, a man came up behind me and grabbed both my breasts. I fought back, and then I ran away. But to this day, my loving husband cannot affectionately surprise me from behind without risking getting hit by me. The scars of assault aren’t forgotten, and I still react reflexively.

I believe I fought back against my attacker because I was used to fighting. My two sisters and I would fight like dogs and cats all the time. Physically fight. (Don’t worry, we are best friends today.)

I suggest that women (and girls) should take self-defense classes and/or practice martial arts. They need to know that they can defend themselves from harm. They need to know what fighting back feels like. I took Judo in college, and the Model Mugging self-defense class as an adult. And I made sure my only child learned self-defense, too – my son has his black belt in karate.

I am not advocating for violence – I am advocating for self-defense. I am suggesting that through these classes, women will gain confidence in their physical presence, and in their ability to defend themselves. They can gain a sense of their own power, which may help them not to be seen as potential victims, in the street or in the office.

Also, I am not saying that taking a self-defense class or teaching young girls that it’s okay to fight back will solve everything. It won’t. It is simply one possible response for some difficult situations. Many women who are harassed in the workplace are fearful that they will lose their jobs or careers. Make no mistake, this is a horrible position to be in, and a horrible choice to have to make. The current rash of allegations about harassment at work makes it clear that employers have much to do to make our workplaces safe for everyone.  

But, knowing that you can defend yourself provides an option for you, if your boundaries are crossed.  

As Nicole Sundine, a speaker and trainer in the field of personal safety, has said: “Feeling confident in your ability to protect yourself empowers you to live with less fear and more freedom.” 

I post regularly on communication and etiquette.  We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and my website: www.pachter.com

About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence. Pachter is also adjunct faculty in the School of Business at Rutgers University.