First Impressions Fast

Our instincts are surprisingly accurate when it comes first impressions.  It’s that deep ‘friend or foe’ hardwiring we have now operating on high alert in this era of high speed. While we used to say it took 5 minutes to form an impression, executives say they can do it in 30 seconds (flashes of – professional integrity, well spoken, confident & intelligent).

ImageFor HR specialists who interview constantly it would be curious if they didn’t form quick impressions (sense of – gets to the point easily, builds rapport with people, organized & precise). We gather up fast bits of information, verbal and non, and we then test out our assumptions over the next few minutes.  While our first impression is still malleable and will add new data (technically sound, sense of humour, problem solver) generally it magnifies what it has already glimpsed.

So here are some ideas for you to boost your own first impression –

  • Get your professional image lined up (clothes, shoes, haircut – hair is what most people remember)
  • Tasteful is the watch word (for women jewellery, makeup, colours, fashion trends, purses)
  • Grooming is critical (it counts even more than you already think)
  • Slow down the clock.  Pause and make a mental note that this matters and focus on the introduction.
  • Be positive, genuine and look ‘em in the eye (long enough to notice their eye colour)
  • Get the handshake right (extend your arm and return the grip style and pressure)
  • Repeat their name plus a comment (Gerry, Good to see you here.)
  • Make a positive statement (We’ve got lots to discuss today, I know.)
  • Have 3 pieces of positive small talk at the ready –a local event, news item, recent trip
  • Share a smile (the best non-verbal communication) & add a point of agreement early in the exchange
  • Pause and listen to what they are saying with 100% attention, adding a nod if you like
  • Respond to their comments clearly and briefly (so the interaction rolls on)
  • Pay them or their company/staff/product/service a compliment (only if it is sincere and truthful)
  • Make a direct reference to why you are there (the opportunity, the speaker, the meeting, the event)
  • Ask a short question about them (What brings you here today?  What kind of work do you do? )

The next time you’re in a group setting, take a bird’s eye perspective and watch objectively to see how people engage with others to set up that positive impression – or perhaps how they don’t.  You may be surprised at what you notice.

Advertisements