Q&A: Maximise your personal impact

Q&A: Maximise your personal impact{{}}You might think the ability to influence colleagues and contacts is something you either have or you don't... 

Didi Hopkins (DH), senior trainer for the National Theatre's Theatreworks business training programme, explains what personal impact is and how you can develop it

What is personal impact?

DH: "Personal impact is about what you bring into a room and what others read from that. People get a very good idea of how you're feeling and who you are from how you look and behave.

"They might automatically judge you without thinking they're judging you - certainly they're reading you. Personal impact is about being yourself with more skill and making the most of what you've got."

Can it really make a difference in business?

DH: "The ability to harness your own personality to affect a group can make a huge impact in the workplace. A tiny change can make a big difference in terms of the way people read you. Things like varying your tone of voice can really affect others."

How can I use my personal impact to help me at networking events?

DH: "Ask yourself what you are going to the event for. Is it to get your business card out, make a quick connection and run away, or is it about building relationships? If so, you need to be relaxed enough to just have conversations with people.

"Think about being a host, even if you're not the host, and taking care of people in that room, rather than just going in for the kill. Take your time, smile and be interested - you'll get the focus off your own nerves and turn your attention to your audience."

Can I make myself more charismatic?

DH: "Charisma is not a little bit of magic dust. It's about having presence and being able to listen, answer and field questions, rather than hanging onto a script you've learnt.

"Think about Bill Clinton, or any leader, who people talk about as having great charisma. They are able to walk into a room and engage with the people there. Their skill lies with deflecting attention from themselves to their audience."

What's a good way to prepare for an important meeting?

DH: "Think about first impressions. Take some slow, deep breaths to calm down before you enter the meeting. Then think about how you're going to walk in. Are you going to walk in upright and look confident? Make sure you smile.

"You can rehearse. Practise opening a door, walking in, smiling and sitting down. It sounds daft, but it works."

How does body language alter people's perceptions?

DH: "There are no hard and fast rules, but to be able to stand upright, to be open and to smile and look at people shows you want to be with them. Eye contact is very important. Sometimes people go into meetings and are so anxious that they just look down at the floor and wish they weren't there."