I was in a mid-size city in the South not long ago, attending a meeting at the local Chamber of Commerce.
Sitting behind the reception desk was a woman who greeted me with a big smile and a pleasant welcome. There was a plaque on her desk that should have given her name. Her's had the words “Director of First Impressions.”
“Something a marketing person had dreamed up,” was my first thought. Intrigued, I said to her, “Interesting title they’ve given you there.” She then corrected me.
“I gave myself that title,” she said. “When anyone comes to our city for potential business, I AM the first impression for our Chamber and our City. I don’t expect they will choose our city because of the impression I make upon them, but I won’t give them a reason to stay away.”
By the way, she said all that with the same big smile and her pleasant voice.
I don’t place much emphasis on first impressions. More often than not, I have found first impressions to be wrong. I have met people who made a strong first impressions. Later I found them to be incapable or uninterested in leaving a lasting impression. I have also met those who made a poor first impression. Then they went on to be excellent at delivering results and accomplishments.
Making a judgment on first impressions can lead to making poor decisions. At worse, it can lead to dangerous results. Lasting impressions are what matter.
But regardless of my perspective, many people do make decisions on first impressions. This means first impressions are still important. And to be clear, there’s never a justifiable reason to make a poor first impression.
If your entire job is about making strong first impressions, then be excellent at them. Be like the Director of First Impressions I recently met.
Here are three key points to make a great first impression:
First, be genuine in how you show interest in the person you are meeting.
Listen when they talk, be present and engage yourself in the conversation. Whether the meeting lasts for an hour or only a few minutes, showing genuine interest will make an impact.
Second, ask questions instead of talking about yourself.
People love to talk about themselves, and when you ask them to do so, they perceive you as caring and interested. "Tell me what you do" or "tell me about your family" go a long way towards making a great first impression.
Third, answer questions in a direct and concise manner.
Don't be evasive or attempt to make-up an answer, as this can portray dishonesty or lack of reliability. Remember that "No" or "I don't know" may be the best answers.
The above three tips can help you make a great first impression, but don't forget to focus on making lasting ones. These will be the ones that impact your clients, co-workers, and/or relationships the most.
Have a good story about your best first impression or your worse? Share your insights at briantking.com/engage.
Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts and via his blog.