Five Ways to Make a Poor First Impression

“You never have a second chance to make a first impression.” You’ve heard that for years, but there is a lot of truth in it. We size up others quickly because it helps us make sense of our world and feel safe in it. Research conducted by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that people judge competence, likeability, trustworthiness, and attractiveness in 250 milliseconds based simply on what they see before them! And good or bad, we tend to cling to our initial judgments of others and view them through that lens for a very long time. So try to always put your best foot forward!

Here’s what not to do:

Arrive Underdressed

It’s hard to lose points by overdressing, but you certainly can by underdressing. As Hamlet said, “The apparel oft proclaims the man.” So, what is yours proclaiming today? How you dress tells the world just what you think about yourself and those you’re with. Why not convey intelligence, respect, and confidence? Do your homework, figure out the dress code, then kick it up a half a notch and choose accordingly. You can always lose the jacket, tie, or extra accessories once you scope out the room, but it’s hard to make those things materialize out of thin air.

Focus on Your Phone

You can only have one quality conversation at a time, so if you want to make a positive first impression, you’re going to have to put the phone away. On silent. Or better yet, off. You never want people to think that anything is more important than the conversation you’re having with them right here and right now. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself and move away to talk in private. Then return and hope they haven’t moved on to someone more present and personable.

Use Negative Body Language

Our body language is another element that conveys how interested we are in others. Eyes that constantly dart around or focus on the floor, slumped postures, crossed arms, and grim expressions tell others you’re probably bored, angry, depressed, or all of the above. Face people heart-to-heart, make attentive eye contact, smile occasionally, and others will find you fascinating because you found them interesting.

Shake Hands Like a Limp Fish

…or a wet noodle or a bonecrusher or fingers-only princess style. Yikes! Your handshake sets the tone for whatever follows. Don’t gross them out with a handshake that creates questions instead of confidence. Offer your entire hand, move in until web meets web, grasp firmly, shake lightly (no pumping!), then release. Add to that a smile and eye contact, along with something pleasant like, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.”

Having Nothing to Offer

Here’s another reason to do some homework ahead of time. Research the people you’ll be meeting as well as their companies, industries, and current issues. Prep some questions and insights you could share that would demonstrate your interest in them and knowledge of what’s going on in their worlds. But you can’t be all business either. Prep for lighter conversations, too. Books, movies, sports, theater, food, museums, and travel are all fun topics for small talk, so be ready to share your experiences and recommendations.

Need feedback on the impressions you’re making on others? We have training and coaching programs that can help!

© 2017 Jill Bremer


Build Your Visibility

Feeling a little invisible at work? Looking for ways to stand out and distinguish yourself from the crowd? It’s difficult to create a strong executive presence if no one knows who you are or what you do. Here are some strategies for building your visibility: 

Daily – 

Nurture your network by making one non-required contact each day. Make a call or send a note.

Weekly – 

For the required meetings you go to, ask what you can bring or how you can help, like taking the meeting minutes.

Find out if there are other meetings you can attend outside of your department. You’ll benefit from other perspectives and can build your business acumen and value to the organization.

Monthly – 

Attend events in your industry both large and small. You can reap different rewards from each.

Volunteer for your professional organizations and be more than a good volunteer, be great. Consider volunteering first for the membership committee. You get to know everyone and can serve as the master connector. 

Search out the associations your clients belong to and go to those meetings, too, to stay current on happenings in their industry.

Arrive early to any meeting, if you can. It’s a prime opportunity to introduce yourself to the board members and speaker. Volunteer to help them with setting up or with the registration table.

Quarterly – 

Get your name in print. Write for trade publications, op-ed pieces, client newsletters. 

Consider attending an event outside your industry. Be the only one there who does what you do!

Annually – 

Attend at least one conference in your field. Conferences provide valuable relationship-building opportunities and can bring you national and international visibility.

Do a presentation or panel discussion at the conference. Opportunities abound for those who can deliver a solid presentation. 

Additional Ideas – 

Volunteer for a special project or task force.

Chair a committee (and chair it well!)

Develop a diverse network of people, including people from all areas within your organization. Be the person who knows where to go to get answers.

Adapted from “It’s Your Move: Dealing Yourself the Best Cards in Life and Work,” by Cyndi Maxey and Jill Bremer.

Your Partner’s Office Holiday Party: Are You a Help or Hindrance?

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) Directed by Blake EdwardsShown: Audrey Hepburn (2nd from right)

Will you be accompanying your partner to their workplace #holiday #party? If so, you have an important role to play at that event, one that supports and doesn’t sabotage. Here are 7 #etiquette tips that will help you both shine!

  1. Have a prep session with them beforehand and find out about the people you’ll be meeting and topics to pursue and steer away from. Make sure you understand your partner’s job and a little about the company they work for, as well.
  2. Your job is to make them look good. Let them have the spotlight, so don’t overpower the conversations. Share only flattering stories and remarks; don’t embarrass them in any way.
  3. Put the phone away and be fully present and engaged at the event. If you take any pictures, make sure you get others’ permission before posting them or tagging people. I recommend running anything you want to post or tweet by your partner first.
  4. You may not want to leave your partner’s side, but make sure you aren’t overly clingy or controlling of his or her time. This event is an opportunity for both of you to work the room and make positive impressions, so don’t be a barrier to that.
  5. If your partner fails to introduce you to someone, it’s probably because they’ve forgotten that person’s name. Save them by jumping in and introducing yourself before things get awkward.
  6. Use a filter—no off-color remarks, jokes, or flirting with others. These could come back to haunt you both.
  7. Limit alcohol to little or none. Why? See #6.

Holiday events are a great way for you and your partner to #network, meet new people, and have fun all at the same time. Just remember, it’s still a work function, so do everything you can to put your best foot forward. Happy Holidays!

© Jill Bremer 2016

The Four Facets of Executive Presence

Executive Presence is a hot topic these days, but few can actually define what it is. In the past 30 years, I’ve been hired by many companies to coach an employee’s EP and most will tell me, “I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but I’ll know it when I see it!” So I developed a four-facet model for Executive Presence—Communication, Confidence, Charisma, Image—and those that want to convey a strong EP should work to develop all of these areas.

Speak to Influence – Today’s leaders must be able to listen effectively, ask the right questions, distill key points, and build consensus—and do it all with grace and gravitas. How well do you share your ideas, drive the discussion, and move others to action?

Master Your Nonverbal – Body language is a dominant force in your communication and can be more persuasive than words. Those with EP have mastered their nonverbal messages and use this silent language to convey confidence and influence those around them.

Present with Impact – Doors open to those who can stand (or sit) and deliver a good presentation. EP masters know how to tailor their content and deliver it in a way that keeps their audiences engaged.

Be Authentic – A strong EP aligns the inner self with the outer expression. Are your beliefs, values, and principles reflected in your behavior? Are you authentic, empathetic, and able to show vulnerability and humility to others?

Act with Integrity – When you have EP, you have the courage of your convictions and are able to stand your ground in the face of opposition. You’re able to speak assertively and truthfully, as well as take responsibility for your failures.

Command the Room – Those with EP have excellent “people skills” and are able to develop rapport quickly and easily. Their ability to connect and share their vision helps them build a strong network of relationships that will be valuable to them both now and later

Project Social Savvy – How you treat others demonstrates EP and can set you apart as someone with class and sophistication. You understand the finer points of business and social etiquette, including client/colleague courtesies, techno-etiquette, and dining skills.

Manage Your Reputation – How are you perceived by others? Do people think of you as credible, reliable, consistent? Do your words match your actions? Those skilled at EP are able to craft and control the stories people tell about them and, as a result, develop a reputation that will serves them well.

Dress to Impress – A strong EP means you’ve learned how to package your appearance so that you always look appropriate and polished. Your wardrobe and grooming choices are appropriate to your industry, role, and corporate brand.

If you’d like to learn more about Executive Presence, click here to receive “Seven Strategies to Develop Your Executive Presence.”

© 2016 Jill Bremer

Ladies: Looking Well-Groomed Can Up Your Income

Exclusive-Party-MakeUp-Ideas-For-Girls-From-Summer-2014-7In a new research study titled, “Gender and the returns to attractiveness,” two researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of California at Irvine used data from a national study of over 14,000 people to study the relationship between attractiveness and income. While past studies have shown that attractive men and women earn about 20% more than their unattractive counterparts, attractive women still earn less than attractive men. And unattractive people earn less than both of them. These researchers wanted to explore if attractiveness matters more for men or women and also the role that grooming plays in the attractiveness-income relationship.

They had interviewers rate the individuals’ level of physical attractiveness (unattractive, average, attractive, very attractive) and grooming (poorly groomed, average grooming, well-groomed, very well-groomed), while also taking into consideration control factors such as race, education, region, and age. And the researchers found that attractiveness is no more or less important for women than for men. But, they found a big difference in gender-related salaries when it came to grooming practices.

They found that the grooming practices employed by women—wearing makeup, styling one’s hair and clothes, orthodontia, etc.—accounted for nearly all of the salary differences for women of varying natural attractiveness. Less attractive but well-groomed women earned significantly more than attractive or very attractive women who weren’t well-groomed. The study’s main takeaway: being attractive is not enough; it is doing attractiveness…that is rewarded in the labor market. While good grooming is beneficial for men, it is imperative for women, and allows women to access labor market rewards regardless of how physically attractive they are rated.”

My takeaway? Let’s try to move past the “But this isn’t fair!” argument and go with the idea that this is the reality. The good news is that, for all of us who weren’t born beautiful, we can make the most of what we’ve got and take control of how we’re perceived—and paid.

Contact The Edge Executive Coaching & Training for assistance in image and executive presence.

© Jill Bremer 2016

What’s YOUR first impression?


perfect10In her new book, “Presence”, Harvard Business School professor (and creator of “power posing”) Amy Cuddy shares that in first impression situations, people instantly answer two questions about each other:

  1. Can I trust this person?
  2. Can I respect this person?

Cuddy says that trust equates to warmth and respect to competence. Ideally, we want to be perceived as having both, but we can lose out if we think competence is the most important factor on which to be evaluated. The goal-to be seen first as warm and approachable. Others will respond more favorably when they sense first that you’re trustworthy. It’s only when trust has been established that competence will be evaluated.

The takeaway? Trying too hard at the beginning to convey you’re smart, accomplished, and competent can send a vibe that you’re unapproachable and maybe even manipulative. Brush up on your social skills, ask questions, be a little transparent, and show interest in others. Cuddy says, “A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”

© Jill Bremer 2016

Pin It on Pinterest