Friday, September 15, 2006

Creating the Right Impression

When speaking about networking, I talk about the importance of avoiding preconceptions and getting to know people before making judgements about how well you want to know them. However, whatever our best intentions, we are naturally likely to judge people based on the first impression they make on us, and the majority of that first impression will come from how we look and how we sound, not on what we say.

What is the first impression that you make on other people? Have you looked at how well your clothes suit you? What message they send about you? A few years ago I was confused by how often people told me I looked well when I felt dreadful, and then said nothing when I felt great. I then went to see an image consultant who explained that I often wore the wrong colours, which drained the colour from my face and left me looking pale. On other occasions, I had worn the right colours for me and, however I felt, they left me looking great.

How well do your clothes suit your body shape? If you buy off the peg clothes, are they the right cut, the right fit to accentuate your positive features.

And what does your voice do for you? Do you sound confident and powerful, or unsure and meek? I recently watched voice expert Fergus McClelland give a presentation where he showed just how little of the real potential of our voice we use. When used properly, the voice is a really powerful tool.

Just what does this have to do with networking? If you are attending networking events, don't you want to make the right impression? If you get that first impression wrong, you've a lot of work to do to build relationships. Lesley Everett, author of Walking Tall repeated to me a study from the USA's Professional Image Institute, who found that, once you have got it wrong, it can take another 20 experiences with someone to change a first impression.

Or, as Joanna, my 9 year old niece put it this evening, "If someone is wearing funny clothes that don't match, I probably wouldn't want to speak to them".

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