Are you getting a bit sloppy? Are you taking your professional image more for granted these days? It’s easy to do when you have been in business or at the same job for a number of years. But it is a mistake. First impressions make a difference each and every time. And it’s not just how we dress but how we shake hands; introduce others, our eye contact and how we listen and engage others in conversation. Our body language sends a powerful message to others and signals them as to whether they can trust us, like us and ultimately if they should do business with us.
Watch Others at a Networking Event
Try this . . . at your next networking event stand back and just watch the folks in the room. Watch for those that others seem to gravitate toward. There is an energy, an enthusiasm and a synergy in the conversation. What is that individual doing that is obviously appealing to others? What can you learn from them? My guess is that folks would say they feel comfortable and acknowledged – in other words – they feel connected and “safe” to just be themselves.
Wow, now that is a gift! To be able to create that sense of positive feeling with others (and with strangers too) is pretty impressive. Is it hard to do? No, not really if you are willing to honestly assess your weak spots and then actively take action to smooth out the rough edges if you’ve gotten a bit sloppy over the years.
Making That First Impression Count
During my 6 1/2 years of living in Norway (my husband was assigned to NATO), we attended many international dinner parties and social events. I learned that I could find something in common with just about anyone even if they didn’t speak English well and I didn’t speak Norwegian, German etc. It was a challenge at first but became a well-practiced skill and actually quite fun. Here’s three of my favorite “lessons learned” on how to make a great first impression.
- Practice how to meet someone gracefully – shaking hands, eye contact, remembering names.
- Practice engaging a stranger in simple conversation – listen, ask questions, be interested.
- Practice connecting with others by finding interests in common – “bridge topics” – pets, travel etc.
This is professional development that you can do on your own. It’s all those basic manners that our mothers were always teaching us and that hopefully we’re passing on to our own kids. Enjoy!