Some experts estimate that 85 percent of your financial success comes not from your skills or knowledge but from your ability to connect with other people and engender their trust and respect.
Within seconds, everyone you meet forms an impression that largely determines whether they’ll like, trust, and respect you.
Whether you’re job-hunting or fundraising or leading an organization, making a good impression is absolutely critical. (No pressure, right?)
So whether you are looking to raise money for your company, or you are managing your team or leading your business, connecting to people and making a great impression is very important.
Here are some tips to help you win hearts and minds in 30 seconds:
Neutralize the fight-or-flight response.
The first few seconds of a first encounter are driven by instinctive reactions. Each person makes unconscious immediate appraisals that center around how safe they feel. Be mindful of your immediate signals, and make sure they could never be perceived as threatening.
Be mindful of personal space and respect the boundaries of others. If in doubt, follow the other person’s cues: if they lean in, you lean in; if they stand back, you do the same. Remember that concepts of appropriate personal space vary by culture.
In business, first impressions are frequently colored by expectations. We expect people to live up to the image we have created in our minds from their reputation, phone calls, emails, or texts. We expect consistency with that general image — and without it, we feel some degree of disappointment and confusion. It’s not the time to surprise others with a new side of your personality.
Be mindful of body language.
It accounts for more than half of what others respond to initially — so it literally does speak louder than words. Hold yourself in a way that signals attention and an open heart, and keep a facial expression that combines authority with approachability and eye contact.
The language of the brain is pictures, sounds, feelings, and to a lesser extent, smells and tastes. It’s much more difficult to translate negatives into brain-friendly imagery than positives. Work to develop a positive explanatory style.
Keep control of your attitude.
The general energy you give off is one of the first unconscious things people respond to. If you’re frazzled, project calm. If you’re distracted and unenthusiastic, project positivity. (You’ll not only make a better impression, but you can influence your own mood.)
Manage your moods.
People are drawn to warmth, enthusiasm, and confidence more than anger, arrogance, and impatience. Whatever is going on around you, manage your responses to get the best response from others.
Make sure your words, your tone of voice, and your body language are all saying the same thing. Mixed messages put off others, but consistency gives you clarity and credibility.
Use sensory language.
Activate people’s senses, and mix up your imagery to make sure you hit their strength. Whenever possible, use descriptions of visual images, sounds, textures, motion, and feelings to add meaning to what you’re saying.
Be curious, open-minded, and interested.
If you can get the other person talking and keep them talking, odds are they’ll be drawn to you. Be interested and open-minded; ask questions that spark their imagination and ignite conversation.
Dress for success.
Find a personal style that represents who you are and the message you want to send about yourself. Look at your dress and appearance as packaging a product.
Have a personal statement.
Have a personal statement prepared and memorized so you can tell others concisely and eloquently what you do, what it means to you, and why it makes a difference. Think of it not as a sales pitch but an engaging and artfully crafted mini-presentation.
Work through these points and you should have a great first impression all lined up.
One final tip as you get out there:
Treat every connection you make as if it’s the most important thing you’ve ever done. Because, frankly, you never know when it actually will be.