By Sylvie di Giusto
It happens every day. You meet someone for the first time. It could be a potential customer for your company, someone who would like to work on your team, or someone who simply wants to connect with you. Like it or not—right during your first encounter—others will form an immediate opinion about you. And if you have not taken the time to control the details, you are leaving your impression entirely in their hands. People’s brains immediately decide things such as whether you are trustworthy, smart, successful, or reliable. And most important, their decisions will lead them to follow you, buy from you, stay with you—or not. A first impression happens in the blink of an eye, and although a first impression is based solely on you, it will also affect how people think about the company you represent.
So what are first impressions based on?
First impressions are based on many factors, but there are a few that will stand out to almost everyone you meet. How can you make your first impression work for you? How can you be sure your first impression is what you want it to be at any moment and with any person? How can you impress your team, your boss, and those who are considering working with you or your company? Unfortunately, there are no simple answers to these questions because there is no one-size-fits-all formula. Instead it is all in the details and is based on what I call the ABCDs of your first impression.
A = Appearance
Appearance is the first thing people will see when you step into a room or show up at a meeting. We don’t like to think people are judging us by what we wear or how we look, but they do. We all do it, even when we try not to. Our appearance can say a lot—quickly and loudly. It starts with the suit you are born in—your body. Does it look healthy? Do you take care of it? Next, comes your clothing, your accessories, your hair, or your makeup—everything people see when they simply look at you. As a leader within your organization, you set the tone right here. You need to lead by example and, visually, help your team understand how you all need to represent your company and its values to your potential and your existing customers. You and your team need to understand whom you serve and what your customer’s expectations are.
B = Behavior
Behavior, while not as visible as appearance, is the next thing people will notice about you. This can be anything, such as your smile, eye contact, how you stand, how you shake hands, and much more. Do you fidget when you talk to someone, which may make you look nervous or uncomfortable? Do you slouch instead of standing tall and confidently? Do you look around the room when you are talking to someone instead of making eye contact? Most important, your attitude speaks loudly, long before you open your mouth. In critical situations, when emotions run high, how do you control your attitude toward your team members? What attitude do they show toward your customers when they call in with questions or they meet them at the next meeting?
C = Communication
Communication constitutes a big part of others’ first impression of you. Yet, perhaps you may be surprised that communication is not only about talking. Influential conversations are based on a verbal give and take. Listening is the most important part of every conversation you or your team members have. The better you listen, the better you can respond with confidence. Did you prepare questions for the people you will be meeting beforehand? Did you take the time to learn something about them, their organization, passion, or latest wins and worries? Preparation is key when it comes to communication and can help with opening conversations and keeping them flowing. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be. And the more confident you are, the calmer your voice will be. When you are prepared and confident, it will be easy for you to get your point across while providing helpful and useful information. People will notice your preparation and confidence when you speak, and these traits will be part of the impression you leave.
D = Digital Footprint
There was a time when your digital footprint was not a factor, but today, people gain their first impression of you online—before they even meet you. You and your team’s digital footprint cannot be overlooked as the most important part of the first impression you make on others. Your social media profiles, your e-mail style, and everything you do online can be analyzed at any given moment. Before you get the chance to shake a potential or existing customers hand, they have already formed an opinion of you based on the conscious and unconscious footprint you and your team leave online. And, while you may think your posts are private, a future prospect or business contact does not differentiate and may judge you, your team and your entire company possibly based on just one post an employee on your team made. When did you perform a digital background check on yourself? What will you find about you and your team? Will it be the impression you had hoped to make?
Being unprepared is a serious shortfall
Your first impression is all in the details and in the way you control those details. It is important to make sure you know what you want to say to others with your image and that you work to control that image, so it does not control you.
“You have 7 seconds. Make them count!” says keynote speaker and trainer Sylvie di Giusto, CSP, who helps individuals and organizations explore how people quickly make up their minds about them, their leadership potential, or their company and either open the door for them or slam it shut. Sylvie’s nearly twenty years of corporate experience, her ability to empower people to inﬂuence the success of their own career, and her lifelong dream of being an American have led her to the United States, where she uses her extensive expertise to work for companies, professionals, and politicians, who place great importance on the impressions they make. Sylvie speaks to audiences worldwide about the importance of “first impressions . . . and everything beyond” and takes them on an entertaining journey that reveals how the world sees them. She is the author of The Image of Leadership and the creator of “How You Impress.”