They Laughed When I Got Up to Dance

When I’m meeting someone for the first time and I have to describe myself, I say I’m a cross between Spanky and John Belushi.  Or, I’ll say it’s not easy being follicly, vertically, and circumferentially challenged.  So, when I head out to the dance floor I always get a few stares once I hit my groove and bust a move.  Then, I’m more like Re-Run from the 1970’s sitcom ‘What’s Happenin’.
re-run dancing
This takes me to my point:
Before you ever open your mouth (and start dancing) people will form opinions about you.  It’s inevitable.  We make snap judgments about others.
So, it’s critical that you realize how your communication (your actions and behavior) set the tone for how people form that ever important first impression of you.  Specifically, we communicate the following three ways:
1. Verbally;
2. The written word; and
3. Non-verbal / body language
Following are some simple yet often overlooked strategies you can begin implementing, to be seen as a professional “rock star” to make a positive first impression and build a strong brand right from the get go.  While you may consider these strategies for personal etiquette (and I’d agree) these are also effective for building trust in people you wish to work with/for.
1. Honor Your Commitments: The other day, I invited an acquaintance to speak at an upcoming panel I am hosting for my MeetUp.  I needed a prompt response and they committed to give a reply by yesterday.  I did not hear back so, I had to call and leave a message.  NOT GOOD.
2. Say “Thank You:” Last week, I made an email introduction between two leaders of separate and competing business networking groups I have been involved with.  I thought they might benefit from doing a cross-group networking event.  One of them responded that he was not interested, as he felt it was a conflict of interest.  When I explained I understood but was also introducing them on a more direct personal level, there was no response.  REALLY NOT GOOD.
It’s a really great practice to get into.  Send a handwritten Thank You note to people for doing things for you.  It’s a lost art.  No one sends notes so this will really distinguish you.
3. Avoid the “Hi, How Am I”: When you first meet someone at an event, does it bother you when that person spends the entire time speaking about themselves?  It’s rude, self-centered and a MAJOR turn off.   You want to be able to tell them just enough about yourself but also ask questions.  As my wife tells me all the time, people LOVE talking about themselves.  Be sure to ask pointed questions that show you’ve done research about them in advance and show you’re listening.  They’ll come away with a very positive first impression if you ask questions about them and show a genuine interest in their challenges and needs.
4. Speak Thine Thespian Self: Nothing is worse than coming across as uneducated.  Don’t speak in slang.  Use proper grammar, avoid slurs, and try not to speak negatively about others.
5. Dress The Part: Understand your audience and dress UP or DOWN based on the situation.  Wearing a suit (dressing ultra conservatively) may work for a group of attorneys or accountants, but not for artists and designers.  Sure there’s a saying: “To thine own self be true” but it’s even more important to set people at ease.  It’s the fashion equivalent of applying a “mirroring” technique.  Let your professionalism and subject matter expertise set you apart and convey your Unique Value Proposition.
Speaking of setting yourself apart…

purple cow

To learn how to set yourself apart from the pack (Herd) see Seth Godin’s PURPLE COW.
6. Look At Me!:  One of the rudest things you can do is look away from others while you’re speaking to them.  Maintain eye contact at all times.  This will show you care about them and what they have to say.
So just a quick checklist.   What do you think?
Here’s to your continued success in 2015.
– Ethan