Make Your First Impression Count

Make First Impressions Count

The first impression is a subconscious, but powerful tool to command respect and exude authority within minutes. Making a positive first impression can mean the difference between speaking in front of an audience that is eager to hear what you have to say or trying to convince an audience that you are credible and should be taken seriously. The phrases dress for success or “first impressions are everything” have been common mantras in the business world for decades. In fact, recent studies are now proving that positive first impressions, such as how you are dressed, can increase your workplace productivity, boost your confidence, and may lead to a higher rate of promotion. Business communication consultants often focus on the power of interpersonal communication skills and presentation skills as necessary tools to excel in the business world. However, researchers are beginning to emphasize the power of the first impression and being authentic as leading indicators of business productive relationship and later workplace success.

First impressions include your visual image, how you interact with others, and the way you carry yourself. These are valuable lessons that should be taught even as early as high school. Since over 40% of employers admit that employees who are perceived as more professional tend to be promoted more often, it is essential that young leaders are educated on the importance of making a lasting first impression.[1] When you are perceived by others, either for the first time or over several interactions, you are often judged. This initial judgment can and often does influence your initial and future interactions with that person. Knowing that you are being positively perceived by others can help to boost your confidence and give you the psychological push you need to communicate effectively with any audience. In fact, audiences are more likely to listen and respond favorably to a speaker that is properly dressed for the occasion and has control over their voice and tone.

Here are the top three strategies communication consultants recommend using, to ensure that you make the most of your first impression, each and every time.

Dress the part. Dressing in business professional or business casual wear has linked to higher self-confidence and authority. Wearing a suit or a well-tailored jacket, tends to send the signal that you know what you are doing and that the quality of work that you do is above average. In high stakes negotiation situations, professional wear often enhances negotiation success rates as these employees are able to command respect and the attention of their audience. Keep in mind that a standard business suit may not be the most flattering clothing options for some body types. To make the most of your business attire, consider trying on different styles, including separates and getting proper alterations to better fit your frame. Ill-fitting clothing can have just as much of a negative effect on your visual image as wearing casual clothing to work. Finishing with appropriate but unique accessories and shoes can help portray a memorable image of your brand.

Check your visual image. The visual image you portray is key for two reasons. First, it is what others will see and this will often influence, positively or negatively, how you will be perceived. Second, your visual image will likely impact how you feel about yourself and this perception can spill over into how you interact with others. It is important to keep in mind that looking in the mirror in the morning when you are first getting dressed is essential, but so too is checking your visual image throughout the day as you move about. Your visual image also includes how you stand, how you walk, and even how you come across to others as you communicate with them. Consider practicing your greeting in front of the mirror. Take note of how you want to smile, maintain eye contact, and how you will give the audience visual and physical cues that you are attentively listening. Everything your audience can see is part of your visual image, so make sure what you are showing them is what you want them to see.

Make the most of your communication. You may command instant respect or authority from your visual image, but you can easily lose credibility if the words you say are not authentic or well thought out. Whether you are entering a networking event, standing in front of an audience delivering a keynote address, or doing your first job interview, the words you say and the tone you use are essential in making a lasting (and positive) impression. Communication skills trainers recommend recording yourself speaking for a few minutes each day and listening for your tone, your voice inflection, and your speech cadence. Modifying these communication aspects can help you to improve your communication skills and ensure that your first impression, with any audience, is as effective as you want it to be.

Mastering the first impression takes practice and dedication to improving. We would love to hear what additional strategies you use to make your first impressions count. Share your first impression experiences and advice with us on Facebook or Twitter.

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/worklife/07/30/cb.dress.for.success/