“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

This statement (who really said it first is a great debate – was it Will Rogers or Oscar Wilde?) is one of the most often quoted comments I hear when discussing first impressions.

first-impresions-lastThat’s why research on first impressions is so fascinating for me. If making a first impression is that important, how quickly are they made and what contributes to the first impression?

Research by Willis and Todorov from Princeton University found that first impressions are made within 100-500 milliseconds of seeing someone.

That’s the speed of a blink of an eye! That doesn’t give you much control over that impression, does it?

Their research found, that indeed, you don’t have much control over that first impression as it is made based on that person’s past experiences.

If you look like someone they have known and trusted—that is great! If you look like the person who broke their heart in high school—too bad for you.

What can you do to make the best first impression? Ensure that you are ready with your appearance, your materials, and your timeliness.

That’s a great start. Yet…there is more.

As Roger Miller of WorkWise LLC stated, “First impressions are now made T -2 hours.”

He’s right. Today’s social media transparency allows people to “see and hear” us BEFORE we ever connect.

Yikes. We need to pay attention to the messages we send with our appearance and messaging now, more than ever.

This transparency means we need to be proactive in monitoring and evaluating our online presence. It is why you should:

  1. “Google” yourself. Click through the first page of links to see what is written or shown about you and your company.
  2. Take a hard look at your online social photos in LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Does your photo show you as you want others to see you? In B2B sales, a low quality photo or one that shows you cropped from a group picture is considered sloppy. It’s easy to have a photo taken these days – just do it, as the Nike slogan says!
  3. For every site that you are on, review your bio, job status, and description of what you have done. Ask someone else to proof it for you to remove typos, poor grammar, and confusion.
  4. Be careful with what you post and comment on. Though my mother said, “You can’t judge a book by its’ cover.” You can judge a person by their comments.

Though I am a huge proponent of being ‘genuine’ and showing the real you, that transparency needs to be matched with professionalism if you want to make that lasting first impression a positive one.

Your Turn: What else contributes to first impressions and what can we do to ensure we leave a positive impression? Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of the Conversations That Sell book.

Congratulations to Pritesh Vorta for winning the book for his comment on the 5 Wimpy Words post.