The Power Of First Impressions
The Power Of First Impressions
Do you make great first impressions at job interviews or business meetings? Do you present yourself professionally when making phone, fax, e-mail or videoconference contacts? 

First impressions are critical. Research suggests that people evaluate others within the first minute. Decisions are usually based on appearance, posture, speech and demeanor. First impressions last. Many business transactions are won or lost in the first few minutes.

-- Do you present a favorable first impression? Check “yes” or “no.”

1. When sending emails, I address the person to whom I’m sending the message by name.
2. I usually display enthusiasm, poise, confidence and style. 
3. I send hand-written thank you notes to business contacts who have helped me.
4. I carry my briefcase and coat in my left hand so I can shake with my right hand.
5. My wardrobe and accessories are stylish and appropriate for the company culture. 
6. When speaking, I rarely put my hands in pockets. 
7. When conducting business, I stand or sit at the client’s level.
8. When leaving telephone messages, I state my message briefly and clearly, and give my name and phone number, repeating these twice slowly.
9. I’m always polite and courteous.
10. I place name tags on my right shoulder.
11. I speak in a level, modulated voice.
12. I remember business contacts’ names and can pronounce them.
13.  I arrive on time for appointments.
14. I never use CAPs when writing emails.

Give yourself one point for each “yes.”  The higher your score, the more you present a positive first impression. Ten or less suggests you could improve your image. Here are suggestions.

 -- Prepare. Research the organization, job or business contact. Call contacts to get an insider’s perspective. Be conversant with company products, services and recent developments. Know how to describe contributions you can make. Practice delivery for presentations or job interviews. 

-- Greetings. Smile. A pleasant, sincere smile displays good will and friendliness. Establish eye contact to convey honesty, confidence, interest, warmth and credibility. Looking down suggests shyness, insecurity, nervousness and possibly untruthfulness. When people ask how you are, respond optimistically, energetically. 

Use the person's name frequently. This shows you’re paying attention and gives them importance.  Shake hands firmly, but don't show excessive strength. Offer your hand first. 

-- Be sensitive to nonverbal messages you’re receiving and giving. Your body language can work for or against you. Be relaxed. Stand or sit erect. Express feelings and opinions directly, honestly, assuredly. Lean slightly forward to face the person with whom you’re communicating.  Note nonverbal cues. If the other person has folded arms, a skeptical facial expression, a rigid body and little eye contact when you speak, stop talking. Ask questions and listen.

-- Speak clearly, and listen. Speak with a well-modulated voice and proper enunciation. Don’t garble words. Adjust your pace and volume to the person with whom you’re speaking. Avoid nervous, nonstop chatter. Don’t babble during silence. Sit quietly and smile. 

Listen. Let the person know you’re paying attention. Nod your head and chime in with occasional verbal cues such as "I understand." Ask non-threatening questions if you’re unsure of what the person is trying to communicate. 

Don’t monopolize the conversation or talk incessantly about yourself, but do share the conversation. Inquire about the person. Share interesting happenings. 

-- Develop appropriate written verbal communication skills. Before sending letters, memos, emails, reports or resumes, review and proofread. Write simply, clearly, logically. Avoid offensive or confrontational language. Address the person to whom your sending the message. Sign your name.

-- Dress professionally. Combine style with comfort and appropriateness. What is suitable attire can differ from one industry to another. Research the norm for the area and company. The appropriate look for men is a navy or grey suit. A sport coat and slacks is acceptable. Suits or tailored dresses are acceptable for women. Short hemlines, plunging necklines and tight-fitting clothes are inappropriate. Select and coordinate accessories to reflect your personal style. 

-- Demonstrate integrity. Be positive and to the point. Don’t share unfavorable comments about others. Focus on what you can offer. Believe in yourself and your product. Be genuine, natural, honest. Approach issues from the other’s perspective. Take responsibility for your actions. Focus on fixing problems.

Create a terrific first impression. To learn how others see you, observe yourself in a full length mirror or video, listen to yourself in a tape recorded conversation, or ask a friend or colleague for feedback. Practice behaviors you want to enhance.