With it taking just seven seconds to form an opinion on someone, and research suggesting that trustworthiness is sized up within a tenth of a second, making a good first impression can be vital.
The workplace has its fair share of opportunities for nailing – or failing – that first impression, whether it’s your first day, a team change or presenting to a sea of strangers. Learn the skills to power your presence in those crucial moments with the TRESemmé Presence MasterClass™, a free online resource for women everywhere.
"First impressions are really important, especially as most of us have first impression bias," explains Sagina Shabaya, aka the 60 Min Career Coach. "You create a picture of a person from your first encounter, from how they look, how they speak, what they say, what they wear, their presence and their tone, so I do think it’s really crucial."
Read on for Sagina’s key tips for nailing that first impression – plus what to do if it doesn’t go to plan...
Do your own PR
Having a really strong elevator pitch is key; think about it as if you were a PR manager for yourself. Keep it punchy and short, describing who you are, what you do and what you can offer. Think about the final little sentence like a grand finale: what do you want people to know about you?
It shouldn’t take too long to create an elevator pitch but you should try to have three different versions. One that you use face to face when you’re having conversations with people, which could be a bit longer and more conversational. A shorter elevator pitch, something like three sentences or three little paragraphs that you could use in your LinkedIn profile or at the top of your CV. And another to feed into things like your Twitter or Instagram handle and blurb. Make sure people know how great you are and learn to toot your own horn.
Preparation will boost your confidence
Practise, practise, practise. Stand in front of the mirror and practise your elevator pitch. It’s really key that you are able to confidently use your elevator pitch in circumstances like when you’re having first meetings or when you’re at a job interview.
Use your friends and family, too. Sit down and practise your elevator pitch with them and run through things that you’ll want to say when you meet a team for the first time. Get their feedback and thoughts. You might not notice that you do certain things, such as looking away, which people might interpret as being rude.
Often when we’re scared or our confidence goes down, it’s because we don’t feel like we’re experts or knowledgeable about whatever it is that we have to talk about or be involved in. If you’ve done your preparation and your practice, that should boost your confidence.
Think about visualisation
Visualise the outcome and put yourself in that situation. If you want to pitch to your boss that you want a pay rise, imagine you’ve got that pay rise: how do you feel? Visualising it will just change your energy. Forward-plan and think about possible outcomes, positive or negative. It will allow you to manage it better when it happens.
Have some icebreakers ready
It’s really easy to have conversations with our friends and family but sometimes in a work environment, when it comes to colleagues or people with intimidating job titles, it can make you cower in your shell. So why not have some prepped icebreakers? Use them if you’re at the coffee machine and it’s a bit awkward, or if you’re at a networking event or in a meeting.
Icebreakers can be simple, like saying "Hello, good morning. How are you?" or "How was your evening?" or "Have you got any holiday plans?". It can even be something aesthetic, like "I really like your shoes". It doesn’t need to be work, work, work. Especially if you’re introverted and you’re quite shy, just having a few things you know you can ask will help so it’s not so scary and intimidating.
Don’t forget to follow up
A good way to follow up with people is via email. I would always email as opposed to calling them or texting. If they’re someone you met at a networking event and you thought they were really amazing but they didn’t give you their contact details, try and find them through LinkedIn and connect. Don’t cold call them, though.
Say who you are and use your elevator pitch. For example: "I’m Nancy. I work for x company. I heard you speaking, I thought it was amazing. I’d love to come and meet you or take you out for a coffee." We live in a world where everyone wants something from everybody and it can be take, take, take. So why not offer something to that person?
If it goes wrong, don’t be scared to try and fix it
It does depend on the situation and who it’s with but don’t feel like you can’t contact the person. If you missed something or don’t feel you presented yourself very well, follow up with an email saying something like: "I’m sad I didn’t mention this, it’s come to me now I’m not in the room anymore." I’ve done that in the past and I don’t think it’s a bad thing to email someone and just say "I wasn’t 100% myself today". You can get a second chance at it.
Want to learn more? Explore the power of presence, and discover the skills and tools to hone yours, by taking part in the online TRESemmé Presence MasterClass™. Visit this free resource here.