Once, I tried something new when I was training a class.
It went horribly, horribly wrong.
I stepped out to meet the audience of our latest presentation skills workshop. I didn’t make eye contact with any of the engineers in the audience. I purposefully misbuttoned and untucked my shirt. I turned my back on them and read my slides word for word. I mumbled. When someone asked a question, I either ignored them or answered with a long, rambling response.
Basically, I succeeded in showing them the worst example of a presenter.
After 4 minutes of this, I said, “Time out! What you’ve just seen is something we’ve all seen in our corporate lives, haven’t we? A person who is not skilled at public speaking. I’m Cynthia Oelkers and I was pretending to be a horrible speaker to make a point…”
But there was a problem. The class REALLY bought my initial presentation of a bad public speaker.
They had already decided not to like me and I never won the class back after that.
No matter how much credibility I tried to build from there, no matter how skilled I actually was as a public speaker, and no matter how interactive and relevant the workshop was, my initial (bad) impression stuck with the audience.
I should have known that there was research behind this.
Your interviewer/audience/first date/new VP all make key decisions about you in the first moments of seeing you and hearing you speak. And you know what? That first impression can last six months (or longer!) especially if it’s a bad impression, according to studies… and even if the person doesn’t consciously remember meeting you.
So, after hearing my story, you’re probably wondering what your first impression looks like. Is it warm and likeable? If it isn’t, it could hurt your career in the long run.
How to be more likeable in the first meeting:
- Assess how you look from the point of view of other’s-
Fair or not, people still make decisions about you based on how you look. Think about your facial expressions. Do people read you as arrogant, angry, or closed (but you don’t mean to be)? You’ll have to work on being conscious of your expressions.
- Show good will and good intentions
People often reciprocate the feelings you give off. Smile, listen, make good eye contact, nod. If you act as if you are interested in the other person, they will usually be interested in you.
- Ask questions and then add a comment
I am stunned at how long people at networking meetings talk about themselves and never ask a single question of their conversation partner. Focus on asking the other person an interesting and relevant question. Listen to the answer, and then add your opinion or a comment that connects you personally to the conversation and the relationship. This gives the other person a chance to talk and then a chance to listen and learn about you as well.
Do you know what your first impression is? Ask a trusted friend or colleague how you come off in initial meetings. You might be surprised! If you need help working on how you are perceived by others, we can meet for an hour and assess why people might be mis-perceiving you.