Why Do So Many of Us Fall Short
When Making A First Impression?
Are you making a good first impression?
I was by myself having coffee in one of my favorite restaurants, Cafe Laurent, creating a sales training workshop for a client, when I overheard a conversation between two women at the table next to me. I’m nosey, what can I say? Especially when it’s on a topic that interests me. They were discussing the program for this year’s Young Women’s Leadership Conference. This is the fourth year for the conference and is an all-day event sponsored by the Los Angeles Unified School District and was going to be held on the UCLA campus. Over 300 high school aged women of color attend and represent every public high school in the LA school district.
At one point, I leaned into their conversation, apologized for my intrusion and suggested that someone teach the ladies how to make a positive impression which would include how to properly shake hands. Well, that did it. We all three struck up an enthusiastic conversation.
The two women were Dr. Brenda Manuel, Administrator Student Unit, Los Angeles Unified School District, and Tunette Powell, Author, Speaker, Researcher and Doctoral Student. One thing led to another, and they gave me the honor of being a Keynote speaker at the conference. I was thrilled! I love to give back and jumped at the chance to help these young women.
Then came the hard part; how do I craft a 20-minute talk that would keep the attention of 300 young women who have the attention span of a Nat and who go through withdrawal when they are told they can’t look at their phone? Plus, I could be their grandmother, for cryin’ out loud! Why would they listen to me?
They would listen to me because I follow what Brian Tracy, Bestselling Author, Motivational Speaker and Sales Trainer, teaches, in his book, Change Your Thinking Change Your Life. That is, “The Law of Belief says: Whatever you believe, with conviction, becomes your reality.” Mr. Tracy also states,
“The most harmful beliefs you can have are your self-limiting beliefs. These are beliefs about yourself and your potential that hold you back. Most of them are not true.”
So, I chose to believe that the information I would share with these young women would be of real value and delivered in a way that would reach at least the majority of them and make a difference.
I also set my intention to deliver a message that left a positive impact. As Ursula Mentjes, Bestselling Author, Speaker and Sales Coach says in her book, Selling with Intention,
“Intention means that you decide “to act in a specific way” that gets results…. you make the decision that you are going to “act in a specific way” and determine the results you want to achieve before you ever meet with the prospect.”
So, armed with the right frame of mind, I began to craft my talk and did so following the advice of Carmine Gallo, Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach. In his book, The Storyteller’s Secret, Mr. Gallo states,
“Most speakers who must educate their audiences spend a majority of their presentations on what they think will win over their listeners: facts, figures, and data. They give very little thought to how stories move people. The world’s most inspiring educators do just the opposite, devoting 65 percent or more of their content to stories that establish trust and build a deeper, emotional relationship with their audience. Once they’ve connected, they can educate.”
Connecting with these young women was my goal. I had to connect to get their attention and I had to get personal in order to make my message have a lasting impact. I myself had to make a positive lasting first impression. I needed to lead by example. But how would I do that?
I began my talk, to the 300 energized young women who were just waiting to see what I would say, by using this great idea I borrowed from my dear friend Teri Dougherty, world renown Hairstylist, Designer and Creative Advisor.
After being introduced, I walked to center stage with a huge smile on my face and waited for the group to settle. Once I had all eyes on me, I held up a blank sheet of paper and said,
Me: “What am I holding in my hand?”
Audience: “Paper! A sheet of paper!” They yelled back at me.
Me: “What is it?”
Audience: “Paper! It’s paper!”
Me: “Ok, paper. Are you sure?”
Audience: “Yes! Yes, it’s paper!” They yelled.
Me: “What color is this sheet of paper?”
Audience: “White! It’s white!” “White!”
Me: “White? Are you sure?” I calmly said.
Audience: “Yes! It’s white! It’s white.” They screamed.
Me: “White? You’re sure it’s white?”
Now at a fever pitch frenzy, they screamed, “Yes! It’s white!”
I then quickly asked, “What do cows drink?”
Almost every single person screamed, “Milk!”
I just stood there looking at them then tilted my head to the right. It took a second and then they realized that they had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Cows make milk but drink water. They realized that they didn’t stop to think before they spoke. That is how I grabbed their attention. Thank you, Teri. You were right. This worked beautifully.
From there I pointed out that this is exactly what we do many times when we meet someone for the first time. We are not present or focused. We hear what the other person is saying but we are not listening. We respond without thinking and many times make fools of ourselves because we spoke before we thought about our response.
I then asked if they would give me their full attention for the next 18 minutes because, if they did, what I had to share with them would change their life for the better. They clapped and cheered then settled to listen to what I was going to say next.
Knowing my goal was to educate, I knew that I needed to really connect in a way that they could relate. So, I said,
Me: “Believe it or not, I was a Sophomore in high school just like you.” They laughed.
Way back in time. That was not a happy time for me.”
The audience voiced their empathy.
Me: “I was very self-conscious. I hated the way I looked. My clothes didn’t fit. I was so skinny that nothing fit right. My jeans were always too short. I wanted to fit in but I always felt goofy and out of place. I wouldn’t dare have a party because I was afraid no one would come.
Throughout the previous monologue entire audience again voiced their empathy
Me: “Do you know what I mean?”
They agreed and clapped. Then I said,
Me: “Here is an example of a first impression that has stayed with me all my life. I was a Sophomore. It was mid-morning in September. Everyone was in class. I was just coming out of the restroom heading back to class. I had this huge pink hall pass so everyone knew either where I was going or where I had just come back from. Embarrassing.
As I’m heading down the hall, who turns the corner and is walking toward me? Jeff, THE guy that every girl wants to go out with. He’s handsome, a star basketball player. He’s nice. He’s the guy of choice!
As he walks towards me, my palms begin to sweat, my heart is racing and my mind goes off in some weird fantasy land. The dance is coming up next month. What if Jeff is going to ask me to the dance? Then, my mind jumps forward. He does ask me to the dance. What am I going to wear? Jeff is coming closer. My feet are like lead weights. We start dating! He just asked me to prom! Jeff has this big smile on his face and I get ready for him to speak and he says, as he’s walking by me, “Hey. Your zipper’s down.”
The entire audience screams and can completely relate to my story. I then finish by saying,
Me: “Do you know that to this day, I will not buy a pair of jeans or dress pants if the zipper does not have one of those little holes at the top of the zipper so I can put a safety pin through it and anchor the top of the zipper to my pants?”
Do you also know that I can’t go to a high school reunion and be in the same room with Jeff without dredging up those feelings of sheer embarrassment?
So that first impression of my encounter with Jeff has stayed with me all this time. I ask you to think about this question. How important is a first impression?”
As you read this article, I ask you the same question. As I told the young ladies in the audience, a good first impression can open doors for you and lead to experiences that can change your life in such wonderful ways. It can lead to meaningful lasting friendships and monetary success.
A bad first impression can hold you back from accomplishing your dreams. It can cause you pain and heartache. A bad first impression can cause you to lose out in so many ways. So why let it happen in the first place?
You can control every first impression. How?
6 Tips To Ensure A Positive First Impression
You Attract What You Think About
I believe what Brian Tracy says in his book, Change Your Thinking Change Your Life, “The Law of Attraction says that you are a “living magnet” and that you invariably attract into your life the people, ideas, opportunities, and circumstances in harmony with your dominant thoughts.
When you think positive, optimistic, loving, and successful thoughts, you create a force field of magnetism that attracts, the very things you are thinking about…. If you keep your mind clearly focused on what you want and refrain from thinking about what you don’t want, you will attract everything you need to achieve your goals, exactly when you are ready. Change your thinking and you change your life.”
A Firm Handshake Sends A Positive Message
- Firmly grasp the entire hand (not just the fingers) of the person you are meeting with genuine warmth and clear intention.
a. Guys, please know that most women want to have you grasp their entire hand. When you grab onto only the fingers, it’s awkward for both of you and quite frankly, in this day and age, it seems a little condescending. Just saying.
b. Ladies, for heaven sake, if you want to be taken seriously in the business world, you have got you “woman-up” and firmly and with intention, shake the entire hand of the person you are meeting. This wimpy, limp wrist thing is just that. It’s weak and gives the impression that you are weak.
- Look directly into the eyes of the person and convey your joy for this encounter.
- Let them know that meeting them is special and that their presence matters.
Have you ever wondered why you are immediately attracted to some people over others? What is it about them that you like? Why do they make you feel so good?
- It’s because they feel good about themselves and they are focused on you!
- They look you directly in the eyes and are paying attention to you and what you have to say. They are listening to you!
- They are asking you questions and you are doing all the talking.
- We are attracted to people who make us feel good and who allow us to be “on stage.”
- They are present for you as you should be if you want to make a lasting impression.
Listen To What They Have To Say
- By focusing on what the other person is saying, you make them feel special.
- To genuinely listen shows that you care.
- Everyone wants to be heard and to feel important.
Look For Ways To Be Of Service
- When you meet someone, focus on how you can be of service to this person, not how they can be of service to you. Think how you can be of value to this person.
Now, why would you do that, you ask?
“Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.”
Think about it this way. When you are genuinely focused on helping others, you are sending positive energy into the universe. You may think this is wacky but it’s really a part of Quantum Physics. When you put energy into helping others, that energy will come back to you in the form of the help that you need at the time you need it.
Here’s another thought. There are two employees who are both good at what they do. Both complete their work accurately and on time. However, one stops when his work has been completed. The other employee looks for other things that need to be done and takes the initiative to do them without being asked. He does so with a willing heart and with just as much accuracy as he uses on his required tasks.
I ask you, which employee has more value to the employer? If one of them needs to be laid off which one will it be? Dah….
Do you provide value in your workplace? Do you provide value to your friends, family and those you meet?
Leave A Positive Wake
As a boat moves through the water, it leaves a mark or a wake. You do the same thing after every encounter with someone. Make the wake you leave a positive one.
- Leave a smile on the face of the person you just met because:
a. You made them feel good.
b. You are someone that they would like to encounter again.
- Leave the person you just met with new information that can be of benefit to them and in some way, help them have a better way of life.
I closed my keynote talk with a quote from Maya Angelou, American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou
I know you know this information but sometimes it helps to have a refresher or wake-up call. First impressions do matter. How focused will you be when you have your next “first impression?”