The saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Nowhere is that truer than in public speaking and leadership. And that impression starts before we ever open our mouths or say a single word.Due to family activities, responsibilities, opportunities, and choices, I’ve been burning it hard at both ends for a few days (weeks, months). I started a 3-day class Tuesday with the needle on empty and desire even lower. But having just taught a class last week on how to be a good trainer, it was a timely reminder that how I feel doesn’t matter, and my learners/listeners deserve my very best. So I scrapped together what little energy I had and greeted folks at the door with a smile that only I knew was fake. I survived the three days, glad I made the commitment to not let on my true feelings.And impressions go both ways. I had a student come in this week with a frown on his face and a gait that appeared “aggressive”. He rumaged through the classroom looking for something before realizing the class materials were in his chair. He huffily sat down and didn’t smile before lunch on the first day. His actions did little to encourage me or make me look forward to class. Turns out whatever was ailing him got cured and he was one of the most interactive and involved students who appeared to really get a lot out of the course. First impression… WRONG. But had the class been a one-day class instead of three, it’s doubtful I’d have had a changed impression. For a speaker who gets 60 minutes, or a sales rep who gets 5, this first impression is even more important, with the lasting impression hanging in the balance.Applying Rule #1, it doesn’t matter what we feel like, want to say, want to dress like, or the attitude we carry — it matters what the audience perceives. Perception is reality.
Map the impression you’d like to give and behave, dress, and talk accordingly.