Image Consulting 101- What lawyers need to know:
It is often said that perception is reality. In court, first impressions are vitally important given that trial judges, prosecutors and jurors have very little opportunity to evaluate the players in a case and often make snap decisions about the parties involved. The ability to make a positive first impression is of crucial importance and may help tip the scales of justice in a person’s favour.
Recognizing this, lawyers will often consult with image experts to help shape their own image or the image of their clients in order to achieve top results in court.
In the following blog post, image consulting expert, Zayna Mosam offers some information and advice on how lawyers can maximize results in court for themselves and their clients by utilizing basic image management principles and strategies.
What is the impact of image?
The ability to build and maintain strong rapport is one of the most valuable skills one can develop no matter the environment or ambitions at play. While character and talent are of highest importance, image is always a major factor in getting what you want because it can quickly attract or repel people and prospects.
The image an individual projects can either prevent a favourable outcome or propel them forward beyond all expectation. Perception is of paramount importance and must be monitored and managed.
Why examine your personal and professional image?
Your personal image is a demonstration of your credibility, your personality and your confidence. It gives you the power to establish the impression of you that will be carried by others and allows you the opportunity to change existing perceptions.
You must feed your priority messages to the conscious and subconscious minds of your audiences. You can communicate your messages swiftly and accurately using your appearance, demeanour and language. Make yourself the easy choice for the decision maker in a world that has us bombarded by millions of pieces of information daily.
The lawyers I have worked with well understand the value of their image as they are so often working to present their clients’ cases. The verbal message or argument must align with the image of the messenger so that it registers as credible to the audience. Wardrobe, body language and tone of voice aid in influencing the relevant parties. The image of the client can be just as critical. Especially when appearing in a boardroom for negotiation or on the stand during trial.
How does an image advisor help you to add value to your personal brand?
An image consultant guides you to become a master communicator. An experienced consultant can develop your customized image (that is authentic for you) and can train you to shift seamlessly between modes in order to connect effectively with your audience of one person or thousands of people. For some, a touch of polish or a small adjustment is what it takes. For others, a major transformation may be in order.
In my experience, even those at the top of their fields are interested in strengthening their personal brands further. Here are some tips to consider:
1. Conduct an image & reputation analysis
Find out how you or your clients are perceived by various groups/audiences through interviews and an honest examination of your reputation, personal image (including appearance and communication style), online presence and business materials. This can be done on your own to a degree or you can have a professional create an objective comprehensive report for you.
2. Extend your strategic goals to include image management
Your image must harmonize with the key messages identified in your strategic direction. For example, if you are a top executive of a company with a cutting edge product that is also known for excellent customer service it is critical for your look to be current or fashion forward. A global sensibility in terms of etiquette is also an advantage.
Formulate a plan if adjustments are required and enlist assistance where needed.
3. Craft a customized flexible image to prepare yourself for your path
Define your natural image parameters. Some people are always somewhat casual (in look and demeanour) while others are very formal at certain times and very relaxed at others. Have a corresponding visual image you love for each mode you have. In order to be comfortable and prepared for anything that may come up, plan a wardrobe that includes every level of dress you may need i.e formal corporate, business casual, evening informal.
Your body language, conversation and voice must be an extension of your style. Find a balance by appearing poised but relaxed. You can choose movements, words and tones of voice that are most natural to you so that you don’t feel as if you are putting on an act. You are simply optimizing your communication for the situation at hand.
4. Attend to the little things - they linger and speak volumes about you
Wear a piece of clothing or an accessory that helps you to stand out for making an uncommon choice. This could be a piece of jewelry, patterned lining in your jacket, a pocket square or a beautiful pair of shoes. It’s not enough for the item to be rare though because the effect only works when the piece suits you. This means it should be of a scale, colour palette and style that suits your body type and personality.
5. Orchestrate the first impression when possible
Plan to impress at a first meeting whether it is in your office, at a party or in a networking context. Set the stage while leaving room for spontaneous moments and genuine small talk. If you know that important people of interest will be in attendance, prepare a few topics and questions to guide the conversation in the direction that will best serve you. Plan every detail of your outfit including accessories and if possible wear or hold something that gets you noticed (I mean a beautiful piece of clothing or an accessory, not something that borders on costume). A compliment is a great way to start a conversation.
If you are in the host role, also design your environment to suit the goals of the day. For instance, when looking to sign a new client different set ups can be ideal depending on the individual or group. Venue, seating arrangements, decor, available refreshments, type of small talk and time of day can make a world of difference.