In the opening chapter of Never Eat Alone, Margaret Wheatley is quoted as saying:
“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.”
The importance of building relationships goes without saying, but what may not be as obvious to many is what goes into establishing the foundation of a relationship. The key is to make a lasting, first impression. Research estimates that impressions are made within the first seven seconds of encountering someone, yet they can take a lifetime to alter. Assuming you make good use of your first seven seconds, you will be well-positioned for a high return on investment when considering the cost of the postage stamp on your handwritten follow-up note. In essence, if you seek to impress, you first have to make a positive impression.
With conferences on the horizon such as the Emerging Administrators Academy, not to mention the granddaddy of them all in NACDA, it is critical to manage how you present yourself to new people. In the points to follow, I offer a few considerations to keep in mind as you set out to make new connections this summer. They are quite elementary, in fact. Just remember your ABC’s. That is, your Appearance, Behavior, and Communication.
Appearance: I won’t stifle your individuality by attempting to coach you up on the latest fashion trends, but I will ask that you remember a couple of the Rules of 12. They are as follows: How do you look from 12 feet away? Better yet, how do you look [and smell] from 12 inches away? The sight and olfactory senses play a major role in forming first impressions.
Behavior: Every setting has its own set of generally accepted behavioral norms. For example, you would not act the same way at the office as you might while attending an athletic event. As Ross Bjork once told me, “The logo never comes off.” Whether he is grocery shopping or hosting a fundraising event for major donors, he is still the Athletic Director at the University of Mississippi. Taking it a step further, what you do when no one is around is what truly defines who you are.
Communication: Simply defined, communication is the exchange of information or news. Keyword = exchange. One of the first bits of information we exchange upon meeting someone is our names (which are often times forgotten soon after). Guilty. I have found that the key to remembering names is to “meet and repeat” upon first hearing them. Also, be sure to playback key parts of your conversations to convey interest and engagement.
In this day and age, we could easily add a “D” for good measure with respect to your Digital Footprint. In many cases, you will have already “met” people via social media that you will soon connect with in person. Thus, their first impression of you has already begun taking shape, which introduces the concept of confirmation bias. This is the subtle tendency we have to interpret new information as support for our preexisting beliefs, or better yet, impressions of others. Said impressions lead to the formation of opinions, and of course, everybody has one. Nevertheless, the aggregate of these very opinions are the inkblots that will be cast upon an otherwise blank canvas, essentially patterning the mosaic of your personal brand.
As you embark on conference season, remain mindful that you have full control over each of the aforementioned impression points. Your appearance, behavior, and communication skills will help ensure your brand leaves an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of those you connect with.
You have 7 seconds…
For more information on professional presence, join me for the Executive Image LAB workshop at the #YPForum presented by Forward Progress. Taking place on June 12th at 9 a.m., you can add the event to your schedule from the main NACDA agenda in the 2017 NACDA Convention App.