First impressions? How I have met you way before I meet you.
When meeting face to face – “You have seven seconds to make a great first impression” or so they saying goes. However, new recent research show it’s now more like 3-4 seconds as we increase our expectations – wanting a fast paced way of communicating – expecting our needs met quicker than ever. We make our minds up fast. If your site doesn’t load fast enough I’ll bounce – and this has certainly affected how we judge not only all aspects of technology but also extends into how we assess people and their potential to meet our needs – or for us to be of value to them.
Sounds harsh? We all like to think we don’t judge others – but wouldn’t it be more accurate to say we try not to judge too harshly or too quickly? Whatever our conscious mind would have us believe, it’s our subconscious that is doing the work when it comes to first impressions. And it gives no mercy.
But – Is that first face-to-face meeting – the chance to make a traditional first impression – really the first chance? Not these days and not by a long shot!
A big part of your personal brand, the impression you make, is what precedes you. What are people expecting when they meet you? Do you meet those expectations? What’s your reputation? The ability to build your brand and commence building rapport before meeting someone face to face is a powerful opportunity often misused or missed out on, by many people when building their networks and networking.
Networking at events or even one on one meetings sees us leveraging our personal brand – which we have previously defined as whatever someone says about you after you have left the room. So what have people heard? When it comes to first impressions or an attempt to build quick rapport – your personal brand has to sing!
A first face-to-face meeting is often just a touch point on the way towards building a relationship – in business, love or life.
Very often the ‘first impressions’ advice revolves around how we look – as most of that first face-to-face impression is based on visual communication. I agree with that – it’s science. But let’s also now add in the bias people bring with them – the good and the not so good – based on what they already know of us.
Is how you look congruent with the images you utilise online? Whilst your profile photos should look like you ‘on a great hair day’ rather than the ‘just finished work, run the kids around and made dinner’ – version of you – it needs to be recognisable. Not a pic edited out of your wedding photos or you wearing sunglasses hiding half your face. In business I’d also advise that profile photos are of just you. No kids, no cats.
A powerful profile image goes a long way towards giving a great impression. A skilful photographer can produce an image that says a lot about you and it’s worth investing in great photography.
But then you meet – in real life – and this needs to be a continuation of your rapport building efforts. Do you look like you? Have you suddenly aged 15 years? Does your ‘look’ make sense? Ideally meeting in person is a continuation of rapport building – not a shock that sees someone doubting their idea of you- doubting their sense of your personal brand. What a lost opportunity that would be. It’s often quoted that the confused mind always says no – so don’t confuse people about who you are.
Before that face-to-face encounter, chances are people have heard of you, seen you around social media, read something you have written, or even been told you were in the room. When you are being introduced to someone, what is it that the introducer has chosen to say about you? What highlight of your brand do they share?
Your opportunity to make a great first impression starts way before a face-to-face encounter. It’s the way your reputation, your brand, precedes you. It’s how you build your brand, what you have said, the content you produce and the images you share or are part of. This is where it starts and it’s worth investing more than seven seconds on.
Then you meet – and it’s a continuation rather than the start of something.
I’m not saying you should put less effort into making great first face to face impressions – but you do need to look at where they sit in the cycle these days and realise that we may have met way before we meet.