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Prepare for Interview, Review, Presentation.

In case you never thought about it, the way you look is more important than what you say when you are in an interview, review, meeting or presentation situation.

That's the advice of Christine K. Jahnke, speech coach and author of The Well Spoken Woman: Your Guide to Looking and Sounding Your Best.

She believes you have to make sure you're sending accurate signals about competence and readiness, and not masking your true potential with distracting mannerisms. Some things to ask yourself, she says, are:  Is your posture submissive? Are your hand gestures aggressive? Are you making eye contact?

Your look is more memorable than what you say, she continues. Gestures large and small speak volumes. If you haven't considered your physicality, you might be surprised to learn what you are communicating while you are (and aren't) talking."

According to Jahnke, there are steps you can take to maximize your first impression:
--. Make a videotape of yourself practicing your presentation or mock Q&A. Reviewing practice tapes can help you see how you appear to your audience.
--. Preplan your opening/introduction to create the strongest possible first impression.
-- Test-drive your outfit. Planning your outfit will help you to avoid wardrobe malfunctions and will prevent the discomfort and embarrassment of ill-fitting clothes.

Also, there are body language fundamentals you can master to both increase your ability to express what you mean and stop mannerisms that detract from your message:
-- Eye contact: Being able to look at the listeners is essential to establishing your presence and maintaining a connection with them.
-- Posture: A "champion stance" - sitting/standing up straight with shoulders dropped back and down, and body slightly tilted forward - will help you project confidence with a relaxed yet commanding posture.
-- Movement: Purposeful movement is interactive, conveys enthusiasm, and keeps the audience attuned. Be aware of how you are moving and where you are going.
-- Facial expression: Facial expressions should match the words coming out of your mouth. Also, some expressions don't work: A tight-lipped smile can be perceived as an attempt to mask anger or rejection, and a twisted smile may convey sarcasm.
-- Hand gestures: Hand gestures can make your delivery more compelling and can help the audience connect with your message.
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