Messages are conveyed as much through the speaker’s bearing as through the words chosen. Nicole Simard, a speaker, author and president of Nicole Simard Communication, takes the time here to address how to make a professional impact. The expert in knowing how to speak in business has spent over 20 years helping managers, executives and professionals improve their verbal communication skills. She defines the concept for us and explains how and why to improve.
Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM) – What is “professional impact”?
Nicole Simard (N.S.) – It is the influence people have on those around them through their ideas. The term extends well beyond the idea of image. It includes a group of equally important factors.
CCMM – Are we aware of our impact?
N.S. – No. Most people have a certain perception of how others see and think of them. The most common mistake we make is defining our impact strictly through knowledge and expertise. But it is the mark we leave on our company and the effect we create with those around us, and not the goals we have achieved.
CCMM – What are the keys for having a professional impact within a company?
N.S. – First, you need to understand that we are defined by how others see us. This is why it is important to behave consistently, whether in the cafeteria, in a meeting or with a client.
Then, developing your impact requires knowing yourself. It’s not a decision that, once made, takes effect the next day. It’s a realization; it involves, stepping back and working on yourself.
Here are six recommendations for having an impact:
- Study the theory of effect. It’s a theory that Yvon Chouinard and I developed: to have an impact, you need to attract others physically, emotionally and intellectually.
- Adopt fluid, meaningful gestures. This means physically embodying your role and having gestures that are consistent with what you say. One example (and a fine one at that) is Barack Obama. His body language fully supports what he is saying and reinforces his credibility.
- Work on your posture. Does your posture represent who you are? How do you sit in meetings? Are your shoulders rolled forward? Is your back straight or hunched? Is your posture open or closed?
- Choose your words with care. Always think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. I can’t repeat it often enough: you need to prepare. For example, when you network, your elevator pitch needs to be clear. In 30 seconds, the person you are speaking to needs to get a precise idea of who you are and what you do.
- Pay attention to how your voice carries and its tone. This is an important point in a career. Is your tone of voice reserved, self-conscious, threatening, kind, nonchalant or directive? What message do people receive from it?
- Develop your listening skills. Lee Iacocca, the former head of Chrysler, said: “I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen... Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.” Conclusion? When people speak to you, your mind has to be open to what they are saying.
CCMM – What are the benefits of having a positive professional impact, both for the company and for the individual?
N.S. – For the company, people who understand their impact can better motivate others and rally them around a project. As managers, they will see their influence grow and become people others seek out. A positive impact can be decisive to a career.
Communication may be the most important source of personal power. We don’t just communicate information; we communicate who we are. This is why I always work with people’s natural strengths and skills; that way they can eliminate anything that might be getting in their way.
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