Impromptu preparedness: this means you are always on and always ready to rise to any occasion at any given moment. Specifically, in this post, I will talk about:
1) Impromptu communication: speaking anywhere at any given time at the drop of a hat.
2) Impromptu wardrobe: always look your best.
Concerning communication, there have been times when every word in your lexicon seemingly disappeared. I define those moments as communicative paralysis. This typically happens while in the company of someone of high stature. In those moments of duress, you couldn’t piece together a single sentence to save your life.
Yes, it can be difficult to speak among large crowds. However, I’m referencing one on one impromptu moments as in you and that Very Important Person, alone, together, in an elevator car. Albeit you may have dressed the part in formal business attire, still, you failed to communicate.
Let’s talk about the wardrobe and style of dress. Recall the last time when you or someone you know decided to make a quick late-night run to Target. The mission was simple: grab a gallon of milk, self-checkout, and get the hell outta there! Let’s pretend that because it was close to 10 PM you presumed no one would see you. Let’s take it a step further and assume you were in slippers, pajama bottoms, and a vintage Care Bears t-shirt, Okay – maybe not pajama bottoms and a Care Bears tee, but you get my point! You were under-dressed, thus super-duper casual!
Upon your entrance, as expected, the store was practically empty. Without shame in your chosen attire, you sashayed towards the rear as your slippers flopped and slid on the polished floor. You open the glass fridge and grab the milk. But then – as the door closes – you see the reflection of your dean upon the frosty glass. “Good evening, I thought you looked familiar. Haven’t I seen you on campus? She says — your reaction: frozen and embarrassed.
In both scenarios, you got caught slipping. What should you have done differently? How could you have anticipated what to say in those moments? Should you have stayed in character as in donning your pristine work attire, while making that pit stop for a gallon of milk?
While out and about, no one knows who they’ll encounter. What if, by happenstance, you crossed paths with someone important, such as your dean or CEO?
Assuming you found yourself at a loss for words, severely underdressed, or both, how would you feel? What would you say? I’ll speak for you and say you’d feel out of character with little to nothing coming out of your mouth.
These are moments of unpreparedness – and don’t feel bad; most of us have been there, including me.
For instance, in my blog post, The Perils of Perfection for Everyday Conversation, I spoke of a time when I didn’t show up. On the day that a well-known luminary visited our college campus, I came unprepared to communicate. Consequently, I faded into the background as someone else took the reins to interact with our campus visitor.
And yes, there were times when, while out on a quick errand, I looked alright. Not my best – but alright. I swear, it never failed that, while out and looking average, I saw a woman of interest but did not go for it.
Earlier I asked, “Should you stay in character?”
Regarding wardrobe, this doesn’t mean you are to be En Vogue for that quick stop to Target.
Regarding communication, you shouldn’t leave home, prepared to deliver a 30-minute soliloquy of Ted Talk caliber while flossing the aisles of Target for a gallon of milk.
Instead, develop a code of conduct, if you will – take wardrobe and communication, and modulate the makings of both, given your environment.
I’ll show you what I mean –
The Impromptu Dress Code
It might sound burdensome & unnecessary to dress nicely while running an errand. But remember, you’re not dressing to strut your stuff on the catwalk before a sea of flashing lights. Instead, you want to achieve baseline decency and adhere to a dress code. Yes, variety is excellent, and we know how to dress for work, social events, and other outings. But why are some of us challenged when selecting clothes to wear while at the supermarket?
That said, ALWAYS have an ideal go-to outfit on deck. If not business casual attire, then something of baseline decency such as a nice ironed shirt, jeans, chino pants, and decent shoes. Whichever dress code you configure, make sure to not dress under the guidelines you’ve set.
If baseline decency entails an ironed tee and nice jeans, exclude tank tops and all things ripped and wrinkled.
If baseline decency entails a polo and a pair of chinos, exclude the tees and denim.
By the way, ALWAYS exclude all things wrinkled.
Save the “excluded items” for in the house or small social gatherings.
The Impromptu Speech: Always be ready to talk to whomever whenever
How should you prepare for the unexpected? What will you say when or if you experience an impromptu meeting of importance?
Remember, you never know who you’ll meet and which questions will come your way, if any at all. The best thing you can do is prep to speak about yourself. In no way is this associated with narcissism. You are to speak about yourself as the questions that come your way will more than likely be inquiries about YOU.
Henceforth, preparation involves crafting an impromptu speech, commonly known as the elevator pitch. Your elevator pitch is akin to a company’s value proposition. As with any entrepreneur/business owner, you must effectively and succinctly disclose your value proposition without blinking or flinching.
For those who can’t improvise and disclose your value proposition within minutes, draft a short speech about who you are, your strengths and talents. The elevator pitch, though extremely short in length, is like a speech. Successively, as with speech prep for the faint of heart, I recommend that you practice your newly crafted elevator pitch. Memorize it, get ready and stay ready to, at any given moment, talk about yourself and what you have to offer.
A typical impromptu/elevator speech looks like this:
YOU: Hi, I’m John Doe. I’m a Marketing Specialist, and I work for The Aquarius Ink Project.
Usually, your listener will follow up with: tell me a little more about what you do or tell me a little more about yourself. This is when you disclose your skills, talents, brief background, and hobbies.
YOU: I’m skilled in SEO strategies + marketing techniques. As a result of my efforts, we’ve seen traffic increase incrementally over the past several months.
I’m originally from Los Angeles, and I’m a proud Bruin.
I’ve been in Houston for two years now, and it feels like home. I’m a foodie and Houston is full of restaurants, so, like, every month I pick a new restaurant to try new food – I’ve gained 30 pounds since moving here from California!
Please note: an impromptu or planned encounter involving communication isn’t a monologue. You have the right to ask questions, too. In fact, after each question, answer, then ask the same question to the other person. When you ask those same questions, this helps to redirect the spotlight on the other party, as well as establish the groundwork for fluid conversation.
In short, this is a simple example of how to effectively & succinctly represent yourself. State the facts. Keep it simple. Jot down your most noteworthy accomplishments, such as college and career victories. Hone in on the most important things concerning you as a person and a professional.
Concerning wardrobe + communication, be prepared to convert impromptu encounters into small victories.
Case in point –
Year ago, while attending a film festival, a woman overheard my conversation about my then struggle to find a job. Subsequently, the woman introduced herself. Surprisingly she was an HR representative for our local news station. Following her intro, I returned the salutations and effectively and succinctly disclosed my background and talents — the result: a job interview.
The time I stopped by FedEx to pick up a work order. It was close to 10 PM, but still, I donned a nice button-up, jeans, and a blazer; I learned my lesson from past impromptu blunders. The woman who checked me out was cute, so in true Kamara form, I asked for her number.What ensued after that was a three-year-long relationship. During our time together, on occasion, she’d remark about how I made a great first impression via my style of wardrobe. And though we’re no longer together, I showed up, dressed the part, spoke the part and got what I wanted.
In summary, develop a code of conduct. Always dress the part. Know thyself and always be ready to communicate effectively and succinctly to represent yourself with character and poise.
Cheers to great taste in fashion, solid communication and continual preparedness, all day every day!