4 Chances to Make a Good Impression
When it comes to your personal brand there is nothing like a first impression, but many do not realize that you have 4 chances to make the perfect one:
1. First scan
There is an immediate overall impression formed the moment you are first seen. Most of the time this scan is done without your knowledge. You may be in a conversation with someone else or have just walked into a room. It may be a side glance or a view from 50 ft away, but it is normally always a full body scan. This impression does notice attire but is more about composure and posture. It looks for a professional profile and body language that suggests openness, respect and confidence.
How to control the first scan: Try to identify how you come across in a first scan. Ask a colleague to tape a business meeting or reception. Watch what your body language says about you. Are you inadvertently reacting to people in a negative way? Do you slouch at the table? Believe it or not you can change your unconscious profile for the better. Practice confident (but not cocky) walks, receptive stances and listening smiles. The more you do it consistently (even when at home) the more it becomes natural. Also, truly try to connect with those you are talking to, onlookers will perceive that honest connection positively during the first scan.
2. First look
This is eye contact. The first time someone looks at you while you are looking at them. This is where hair style, clothing, make-up, etc., is really examined. It is here where you are immediately put into a mental “bucket” that classifies you as a specific style-type in the persons mind. Buckets could be anything – strong, motherly, mousey, cute, sexy, conservative, wild – it is completely dependent on how the viewer perceives people in general.
Can I control the first look? This is the hardest impression to change because you do not have control of those “buckets” in the other person’s mind, but as long as you are confident about the way you dress and act you will make a positive impression no matter which style of bucket you land in.
3. First touch
More often than not this is the handshake. The handshake has the magical power to reverse a previous bad impression. For example, let’s say you showed up to a corporate mixer underdressed. Your scan and first look may have knocked a one-two negative punch…but if you walk up to someone, extend your hand and use an expression on your face that shows appreciation and respect, that person may now feel drawn to you and have a desire to invest time in talking to you because you seem invested in them. When a person can sense positive interest it can overcome any previous negative feelings or impressions.
Have you tested your handshake? A handshake should be firm (but not too firm). Your full hand should grasp the recipient’s full hand and actually result in a shake – do not let your handshake fall limp at the end! Find a friend or colleague to practice with, they most likely could use some practice too. Any handshake resulting in the recipient having to caress their own hand afterwards has gone to firm and if a handshake evokes a slight unconscious look of sympathy (yes, this happens!) it is too weak.
4. First talk
Obviously this is the first thing you say, and it is everyone’s wish that they never put their foot in their mouth at first open.
Plan for this moment. Have about 4 “first talks” in mind that can be used in multiple situations. Decide if you are going to use that time to make a quick joke, comment on something you like about the person’s appearance, compliment the person who introduced you, say something about the meeting or event you are attending, etc. With a small roster of things to say, you can be more in control of the conversation and how it shapes your impression.
Use all 4 chances!
You have 4 chances to make a good first impression, not just one. Approach each one separately and decide how you would like your personal brand to be scanned, seen, touched and heard. Know that if one impression did not go well that there are other ways to impress, but with strategy (and practice) behind your personal brand you can control that positive perception.