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Blind Dates - Creating a Positive First Impression

 Have you ever been on a blind date?  If you’re under the age of 40, you probably don’t even know what that is.  I remember vividly being set up on a blind date in my 20’s.  My friend would describe my date, but there was no way for me to see him before he rang my doorbell unless someone had a picture (from a real camera).  There was no Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn to alert me to what I was getting into.  When that door swung open, a first impression was made.  With social media, there is no such thing as a ‘doorbell’ first impression.  Now we can check out people in all kinds of ways before we decide to spend any time with them.  This post is all about how you can improve your chances of making a positive first impression, on LinkedIn specifically, or in front of a group.  

First, let’s talk about some of the research regarding how much time it takes to make a first impression.  Google “first impressions” and you’ll immediately discover the research suggests differing amounts of time required to make a first impression.

Roger Ailes, a media strategist, famously said, "You have just seven seconds to make a good first impression." (read full article)

Think about that.  When you’re in front of a group saying, “Good morning, my name is Judie Knoerle." The verdict is in, the first impression is made.  

Vanessa Van Edwards, a behavioral investigator, contends that you have only two seconds before an impression is made.  (read full article)

It gets worse. In the popular book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell says that people make choices in a blink of an eye. (read full article)  I’m in agreement with Gladwell.  I believe that the impression you make on someone starts the moment they lay eyes on you.

Where can you begin to make a positive first impression virtually?

  •   For business contacts, I use LinkedIn. Many of us searching for connections have seen that ‘target’ photo next to a name.   I never connect with someone without a picture.

  • Nor will I connect with a business person who has a picture like this.  Be careful how you portray yourself.  I strongly suggest that you seek out a professional photographer to feature you in the ‘best light’.

Now, how can you make a stunning first impression when you’re in front of an audience?  Here are some tips:  

  • Wear something you feel great in that is about a ½ a step dressier than the group.  Avoid being overly formal for a casual meeting or too casual when everyone is dressed for business.  A reminder, you don’t want to be remembered for that hat you wore but rather for how professional you looked in what you wore.  

As an example, my husband and I went to dinner at a new restaurant recently.  The first impression of the waitress was what made us decide to never return.  Disheveled, wearing huge, jangling earrings so we couldn’t hear what she was saying, and a short outfit unbecoming to her body style.  The food was great, her attitude marginal.  The dining experience was forgettable, but I’ll always remember those earrings.  
  •  If at all possible, don’t wait to make that first impression when you're standing in front of your audience.  In the lobby or hallway, shake hands, introduce yourself, ask a question before your
    talk begins.  That personal touch will help solidify
    a positive impression before you begin.

  • As you launch, smile, pause, look around the room and say, “Good Morning” with a nicely projected voice.  Pause again for a response.  The audience will know you are ready and their focus is on now on you.

  • Know exactly what you want to say for the first minute or so.  Give yourself the luxury of momentum and run with it.  Any sports team knows that feeling.  It’s going our way, and we’re going to take advantage of it.  You’ll start feeling the energy of the audience which will ignite your own passions.  Passion is what sells ideas.

  • Never tell the audience you are feeling nervous.  That just forces them to watch for signs of how nervous you are.  It’s almost impossible to overcome that first impression of nervousness.  Focus instead on your breathing, keep that smile on your face and look them in the eye.  They will never know you’re nervous because your attention is on them. 

  • Get grounded, either seated or standing, and maintain open body language.  If you start by clutching your hands in front of your body, the audience knows you’re not ready to start.  It looks like you’re frightened and waiting for arrows to be slung.  Start out with open body language, and stay that way.

  • Finally, we never know from where a referral or business might come.  That’s why I don’t wear my sweats on an airplane, nor anything flashy at a networking event.  I’m thinking about 1st impressions most everywhere I go.  I always check the mirror, try to have a smile on my face, make eye contact and offer a pleasant greeting. That's the best way I know to make a winning first impression.
 Here’s to great blind dates with your audiences!

If you want more information contact Red Cup Presentations for a coaching session or a group workshop.


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