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It takes more than “the luck of the Irish” to be successful in business today. The dos and don’ts of making a positive first impression or introducing two people whose names you’ve forgotten or adding warmth to your e-mail messages play a major role in climbing up the slippery ladder of success. With that in mind, here are a few key ways for putting your most professional self forward. GREET BEFORE YOU MEET So much to do and so little time to do it. No matter how rushed you are, you will make a much better impression and save more time in the long run by beginning all conversations with a greeting. The power of a “Good morning,” “Good afternoon” or “Good evening” do wonders in getting others to listen. Save “hi” for your home life. CREATE A ‘DELETIONARY’ OF TERMS Go figure. Whatever. Hello? Awesome, you rock. Everybody uses distracting terms. Rather than diluting your message with slang, delete distracting terms from your vocabulary. I make an effort to practice what I preach and that includes being made aware of overused words. During a recent CNN appearance, I asked a friend to critique my part of the interview. To my dismay, I learned that the term “absolutely” had been said five times within three minutes. You can be absolutely certain that this word was quickly added to my deletionary list. You too can employ a professional word coach by asking a manager or colleague to monitor how you deliver messages. You may be amazed how often others hear “like,” “ya know” and “uh” from you. LEARN 10 WORDS IN YOUR CLIENT’S LANGUAGE For decades, Americans believed that international clients needed to get with “our” program by speaking English when doing business in the United States But this mindset can be detrimental to doing business with clients from abroad. Rather than risk being perceived as an arrogant American, acquire a mastery of basic phrases in your international client’s native tongue as a means of improving client relations. ABIDE BY THE THREE-FOOT RULE When was the last time you walked passed someone at your firm who made you feel invisible? How often are you so deep in thought that you ignore others in halls, elevators and other common areas? Anytime someone is within three feet, acknowledge him or her with a smile, a nod and/or a verbal greeting. By integrating the three-foot rule into your professional — as well as your personal style — you will be viewed as someone with a pleasant disposition rather than an arrogant being who only talks to others when you need something. ADD WARMTH TO YOUR CORRESPONDENCE It’s both what you say and how you say it. Whether sending a formal letter or an e-mail, establish rapport with the receiver before getting down to business. Example: “It was a pleasure meeting you at the conference in Los Angeles last week. I hope your return flight was pleasant.” These pleasantries will remind the receiver that there is a person behind the correspondence no matter how serious or light the content. KNOW WHEN TO SEND A LETTER, A NOTE OR AN E-MAIL Anytime, yes, anytime someone spends more than 15 minutes with you, drop the person a written thank you. If the person has given you 15 minutes or more on the phone, drop the person a follow-up e-mail. When you spend time with someone face to face, a keyed or handwritten thank you is in order. If your writing is illegible, type the communication. If you took a client to lunch, a handwritten thank you is in order. You can be sure that your client will be pleasantly surprised at your display of follow-through. Remember: A verbal thank you never takes the place of a written one. STOCK UP ON GREETING CARDS FOR EVERY OCCASION Buy at least two cards for every occasion. Sounds silly? When you learn that a client has become a grandparent for the first time, or that a family member or even a pet has died, or that someone has been hospitalized, send a card promptly. When greeting cards are at your fingertips, your best intentions are within reach. Ann Marie Sabath, the founder of At Ease Inc., a Manhattan-based business protocol and development training firm, is the author of seven books on domestic and international etiquette.

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