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SUIT UP: Improve your First Impression

The First Time

Palms sweaty and heart beating out of your chest, you enter the room trying your best not to forget your own name. As that blast of air conditioned air fills your lungs you see a number of people talking to each other conversing over glasses of drinks. You think you see someone you recognize but turns out it was somebody else. Your friend, who invited you to the event, had to be absent at the last minute, something about an emergency. As you roam around, you notice other individuals who seem to be in the same predicament as you. Alone and hesitant to approach. Taking all the liquid courage you can drink you wipe your lips and palms and approach one who seemed friendly enough. As you introduced yourself an awkward smile crossed the face of your listener and then silence. Not sure of what to do, you keep on talking and just as you were mid-sentence in your company’s selling points, your listener motions an excuse. One can’t help it if the bladder is full. You return the awkward smile and let your listener go. You wait for a few minutes but it seemed like no one is coming back. You didn’t even get a name. This happens a few times with different guests, but with different excuses and before you know it the event is coming to a close. You go home with no connections made and frustrated with all the time wasted.

Impressions Good and Bad

Does it sound familiar? Have you experienced something similar? Have you realized what the problem is? According to research it takes about 2 seconds for a person you are meeting for the first time to create a conclusion about you. After that, 30 seconds is all it needs to solidify that conclusion. It may not seem fair but that is part of human nature. According to Malcolm Gladwell, first impressions are based on personal past experiences. Experiences both good and bad is subconsciously recorded and used by our brain as a reference so when you see the signs a warning will tell you that this can be a bad time. That is why the first few moments at the start, introducing, and giving that good impression is crucial for communication and developing relationships. Remember, bad impressions are nearly impossible to take back and may become a problem later on. So, are you confident of your first impression?

What Can I do to Get a Good Impression?

The good thing is if you have been having difficulties, there are ways to improve. Hopefully these tips will help you in giving lasting good impressions.

1. Be Open to Feedback

The first step for any way to improve is to acknowledge that you are not perfect and that there are things you should improve. Ask friends, colleagues, family members for feedback on how you introduce yourself. Ask them to be honest and that you are looking for ways to improve yourself. Those who really care about you would gladly help and will do their best not to hurt your feelings or some may be too frank but since you know them it shouldn’t hurt as much. Don’t be too sensitive and be open to suggestions on how to improve. You may never know but what could have been putting you off was the volume of your voice or maybe the way you don’t give eye contact. There are things that other people see that you may not be aware of.

2. Look Professional

Look the part. It’s not just the clothes you wear, make up and hairdo also matter. It may seem like it is superficial and shallow but it doesn’t hurt to look presentable. You don’t have to win the award for being best dressed. Just be clean and wear an appropriate attire. Take note the right attire and look can make you not only clean and good but it will give you confidence and authority. Sometimes the small things can cause people be distracted to what you are saying so don’t overdo it.

3. Ask Good Questions

The questions you ask also gives an impression of your values and intelligence. As in dating, the best way to give a good impression is to focus on your listener. Don’t just talk about yourself. Ask questions that show that you are interested with your conversation partner. Here are some sample questions you can ask

  • What about your work brings you joy?
  • You said you were in ______ industry.
  • What got you started?
  • Where else do you usually network? Are there other groups that you go to?
  • How can I help you?

4. Avoid traditional answers, add mystery and humor

90% of the time when someone asks what your work is, someone will answer with their occupation. I’m an accountant. I’m a teacher. I’m a business owner. Try to be more creative than that. Instead of accountant you can say, I help people with their financial needs. You can even say you are a person who record people’s lives through their finances. If you really up to it, you can say that secretly you are a superhero saving the city from falling into despair (by making sure taxes are paid properly). Well it is up to you. Just keep it interesting and people will have a better impression of you.

5. Make a connection, tell a story

Sometimes the best way for someone to know about you and get a lasting impression is to tell a story. A story gives an emotional connection to its listeners. It also shows your values and what matters most to you. Make sure that the story is authentic, good, and something that everyone will appreciate.

Conclusion

There are probably other things that you can do to improve your first impression. The major thing to keep in mind is what value can I give to the person that I am meeting today. We are not talking about sales but genuine, authentic value that can help a person. If you go in with this mindset, then for sure you will have a lasting impression. First impressions are important for effective business networking. Improve and it will give you confidence and courage to reach out to people and build amazing relationships.