Appreciating Professional Presence

Appreciating Professional Presence: An Interview with 
Author Peggy Noe Stevens*

by  on NOVEMBER 2, 2013,

Peggy Noe Stevens in both career and personal life has devoted herself to over twenty years of hospitality, entertaining and the exploration of experiential marketing working with Fortune 500 companies and their employees all over the world.  As a trained and certified protocol, image and public speaking consultant, she uses a customized approach to establishing the authentic image architecture of both people and place.

We interview author of Professional Presence, Peggy Noe Stevens today on a very important topic to young professionals.

1. Thanks for the interview, Peggy!  First off, what isYOUR definition of Professional Presence?

Professional presence is that first snapshot someone has of you.  The overall appearance you give, or how you carry yourself, nonverbal cues, voice, the ‘surround sound’ of what makes you appear professional to other people.  It’s a challenging set of skills to learn – I coach many in their careers climbing the ladder who need to stop, take a step back, and get more training on their soft skills.  They may have excellent or brilliant technical skills and education, but they need help with polishing their soft skills in order to enhance their professional presence to continue moving up in their careers.

2. Why should young professionals care about Professional Presence?

Because it is THE thing that makes them rise above their competition. Because all things being equal, people coming out of college today are well educated and traveled, but it is an extremely competitive market.  Even though you might walk in to an interview or a promotion at work, having professional presence, proper protocol, and how to present yourself and dress well are what sets you apart from others.  I call it a professional presence ‘tipping point.’

3. You also discuss in your book that there are four professional presence platforms.  Which one do you see young professionals needing the most help with?

Personal, and the reason why is their image.  Many young professionals haven’t yet transitioned from the college look.  The college look includes their hair, makeup and styling, which stick with them after college.  They need to transition toward looking like a professional to be taken seriously.

Quick story: I was working with a gentleman who was 30, who was very smart and the company he worked for loved him.  But he appeared to be very boyish.  He was not dressing the part for the next promotion.  Once I came in and changed the look of his appearance and styled his hair, gave him more quality clothing that fit him correctly and taught him how to dress for certain occasions—such as professional presentations or business lunches.  When you’re just starting out, you don’t have a lot of money, but you don’t have to have a lot of money to make that transition.  But, you can strategically pick the right clothing and pieces without a lot of money.

The other part of ‘personal’ is work-life balance.  In my book, I talk about the fact that there is no such thing as balance, but there IS work-life purpose.  Work-life purpose is how professionals spend their time in the office vs. at home or philanthropically.  The more professionals manage their time, the better they will be and the higher they will go.  If you look at any executive at the top, they manage their time to perfection.  Every minute counts, and every meeting has a start and end.  Young professionals need to groom themselves for that pace as well.

4.  Within your 4 professional presence platforms, there are 14 key skills outlined in the book. Which of the 14 skills in your professional opinion do you think young professionals do best with, and which of the skills do they struggle most with?

The young professionals manage best their eyes.  I think it is because of their age.  Their eyes are wide, bright and attentive.  As we mature professionally, our eyes don’t stay as directed and we’re not as wide-eyed and alert.

I think that young professionals struggle most aside from the personal pillar above, with non-verbal gestures.  Non-verbal gestures are their body language.  They are sending micro messaging with their body language.  Micro messaging is key for self-awareness, how one’s facial expressions react to someone or how one is sitting in a chair, biting nails, or pulling hair behind ears.  All those habits are distracting.  Posture is part of this as well.  Posture is the #1 confidence symbol I look for in a person.  If they have great posture, they are confident.  When I see rolled shoulders or slumping in a chair, people appear uncomfortable.  People do read body language and subliminal messaging that can give the right or wrong signal.

5.  Can you give us example(s) of a young professional(s) who benefitted from reading and employing the skills in your book?

I had a brilliant, very well-liked young woman who I worked with in the past.  But, her cultural background made her shy and soft-spoken.  When it came to sitting around a boardroom table, she never wanted to be too intruding or rude.  I had to teach her the fine line of being part of the conversation.  She had to bring herself out with her voice and I had to teach her how to breathe correctly; she had to learn how to use her voice from the diaphragm instead of the throat.  I also had to work with her to sit in a chair properly, and which position to sit at in a boardroom, giving her the nonverbal power to show that she was a part of the senior group, instead of acting like she was in the way.  People can now hear her, she is more articulate, and she was finally heard.  She was so soft spoken.

Another young professional gentleman I worked with had the opposite problem.  He was very in-your-face, loud, interruptive, and his facial expressions wore a smirk if he didn’t agree with other opinions.  I actually had to dial down his gestures because he was very passionate and exuberant.  I also had to help him dial down his body language, keep his hands on the table, communicate softer, and make him aware of his facial expressions.

There’s a balance within professional presence of being not to hard or not too soft. It’s hard to see yourself.  I’m still teaching 50 years old men how to shake hands because so many people were never taught soft skills.  You don’t get an etiquette 101 degree when you graduate from college.

6.  Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

My inspiration for writing Professional Presence is that I have 2 boys, and I kept thinking that I needed to write a book to prevent young professionals from making the same mistakes I made in my twenties.  We are always learning and growing – but I wanted one stop shopping or a bundle of skills around professional presence in order to help people employ the skills and improve how other people treat you based upon improving those soft skills.

Recently, I gave a speech at a conference and had a working mom in her fifties who heard me speak, and told me that she gave the book to her granddaughter, and the book changed her granddaughter’s life.  She was so down about interviewing, but after reading the book improved her professional presence and her outlook on life.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a copy of this book for this interview.  However, it was only because I gave away the copy of the book I had to another young professional just before the interview!

Read original article here.


Peggy Noe Stevens & Associates • 2506 Nutwood Drive • Louisville, Kentucky 40223 • (502) 338-6564 • Contact Us

Indianapolis Office • 207 South Meridian • Indianapolis, Indiana 46225 • (502) 338-6564 • Contact Us