Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Getting the First Impression Right

Frank Luntz in his New York Times bestseller WIN reminds us in his LUNTZ LESSONS that your first words are more important than your last: a repositioning of the old adage, “You only get one chance at making a first impression!”

I am sure everyone now reading this blog knows that line, but when was the last time you took a few minutes to seriously think about it before the start of an interview or perhaps a long-sought-after meeting to sell your design services to the company’s marketing VP?

And if that gentle prodding doesn’t get you to pause and think about how you present yourself, then consider the fact that first impressions – which are generally lasting – take place usually within three to seven seconds. It may be your posture, your handshake, your smile, your clothing or what you say, which often means it’s your attitude that creates a relationship that can make or break the future for you to sell into the company or win future business. 

I always over-prepare for an interview. I research the company, management team, their product and the interviewer’s background via LinkedIn.  But I probably don’t spend enough time thinking about how and what I’m going to say in pitching my services.
And like any good lawyer’s opening statement, I should be able to request the outcome or call to action I want. Besides that, if I don’t project the confidence and energy necessary to solve their problems, then I probably don’t stand a chance of being hired.

So start by considering not just what you say but also what nonverbal signals you send to others in the all important opening seconds of a meeting. Do you quickly establish a rapport that lasts until the end of the meeting? Have you mastered the ability to tune out distractions and focus on the composite of the person, and thereby enhancing your ability to read that person’s nonverbal signals?

And finally, learn to verbally edit on the fly. If midway through a story you lose eye contact (as I experienced last week), then you know you’re speaking too long. Getting and holding attention is becoming increasingly difficult today amid the ever-present distractions of texting and tweeting.

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