First impressions are so important. One of my favorite sayings is: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. From the moment you meet someone you are consciously or subconsciously analyzing them. My dad taught me the importance of a good handshake. When someone gives you a dead fish handshake it doesn’t make a good first impression. Unless you have a muscle problem or arthritis, a nice firm (but not bone crushing) handshake is a universal sign of strength and assuredness for both men and women. A weak / dead fish handshake shows the complete opposite. No matter how well dressed you are or how well spoken you are, you could blow your entire first impression with your handshake.
When my dad was teaching me about the importance of a good handshake, he mentioned someone we knew with a dead fish handshake. This person always seemed to be going from one job to another and not doing very well in life. He never made the sales he needed and this business or that business flopped when he was in charge. I often wondered if it was his bad first impression handshake that made others question if it was a good idea to work with him. His first impression with that simple handshake was he was weak and unsure of himself. That’s not a good first impression if you want people to trust you or look up to you.
Different cultures have different non-verbal greetings from bowing in a certain manner to a simple nod of the head. In Japan even how far you bow to someone, 15, 30 or 45 degrees have different meanings. I wonder if they call someone that doesn’t bow properly a dead fish bower? 🙂 In Japan even a simple exchange of business cards is done in a proper manner. If you don’t follow their business etiquette handing out or receiving a business card, it could make or break a deal.
When dealing with other cultures, be sure to learn what’s proper and what’s not in their society. Even if they are in your country on business, they still have a certain way they do things and might not know your way. The same goes no matter if they are coming to your country or you are going to theirs. I’ve worked in Japan a lot over the years and have become accustomed to their ways. Some things might not seem normal or right to you, but it’s their traditional ways, so do your best to do it.
Don’t go at it with the attitude that the person is in your country and needs to follow your rules in order to do business with you. We all have different business etiquette and must understand that the person we are dealing with might not be on the same page as we are. Be willing to understand where they are coming from culturally during your business dealings. It’s as much a part of them as your ways are a part of you.
“We don’t know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don’t always appreciate their fragility.” – Malcolm Gladwell
I’ve talked about the importance of making a great first impression one on one and the same goes for one on one thousand or more. How you kick off your convention, conference, trade show, etc. usually sets the tone for the entire event. The attitude of the people registering your guests, their appearance, the displays, the registration forms and many other things combined give your attendees a good or bad first impression. How many businesses do you no longer go to because the a horrible staff? Probably a lot over the years.
Is your opening speaker someone that is able to get the room energized or someone that is standing behind a podium and talking at your group? A good majority of companies want to get their information across and have someone get up and speak at the beginning of the event about what’s been going on in the business. They go over the numbers, what’s going well and what’s wrong. They show extremely boring slide presentations and by the end of their speech the people watching it are about asleep. That’s their first impression of your event and it sets the tone for the remaining hours or days of the meeting, convention, trade show or conference.
The same thing happens when companies try to book discount motivational speakers or discount corporate entertainment. You usually get someone that doesn’t do a good job and brings everyone down for their allotted 45-90 minutes. The events really go downhill in a hurry if you hire a discount motivational speaker or entertainer for the entire day to be your general session host, speaker and entertainment. Your guests / employees will be thinking of every excuse in the book to get out of the meeting. When you want to motivate and entertain your guests you want to hire someone that will keep them on the edge of their seats and glued to their chairs, not someone that will have them looking for the nearest exit. How will that first impression of the speaker or entertainment be with the guest?
We’ve all been to events where the papers and forms that are important to the event look like they were copied on an old copy machine and other events where they looked like they spent a lot of money on printing great quality information for you. Everything from the paper things are printed on to the glasses the guest drink out of to the quality of the lighting and sound at the event all combine to be the first impression of the event. Think of it all as the event’s handshake. Is it a sign of strength and assuredness or all adding up to signs of a cheap event that isn’t very well planned? Watch the video below to see how even the centerpieces and chair setup at your event can make or break it for some of your guests.
When I get a business card and see a yahoo or hotmail email address on it or see their website is hosted on a free hosting company, my first impression is they aren’t very professional. The president of Pepsi wouldn’t have a hotmail or yahoo account on her business card. Why? It doesn’t look professional. It would probably be her name @PepsiCo.com if it was on her card at all.
Not long ago I was driving behind a truck from a home improvement company. The license plate tags were in the wrong spots and on crooked. When you renew your tabs it shows right on the paper where they are supposed to go. They make it very clear. With this company’s license plate tags all in the wrong spots and crooked, it showed me they don’t read instructions or don’t care what others (in this case the Secretary of State) request they do. I wouldn’t even consider hiring them on this first impression. Would I want someone remodeling my kitchen that doesn’t read directions and does things in a sloppy manner? No. By the simple wrong placement of a sticker that was my first impression of this company.
Your first impressions can be the attitude of your employees, the quality of your business cards, what’s printed on your promotional items or something as simple at your license plate tab. It all depends on what the point of the person’s first contact with your company was. Was it sitting behind your company vehicle at a stop sign or walking into your lobby and dealing with the happy or mean person at the front desk? Everything adds up.
Over the years I’ve helped countless companies, just like yours, to make great first impressions on their event attendees. Some companies hired me to be their opening speaker and entertainment while others hired me for the closing speaker. I’ve even had some hire me to motivate their guest in the middle or a long week to pep them up and keep them going. Since I combine motivation and entertainment your guests will be on the edge or their seats and glue to their seats. They’ll feel appreciated since you hired someone to entertain them, but also go away motivated since I combine motivation into my presentations as well. It’s a win/win situation for both the CEO and employees.
No matter if you hire me (and I hope you do!) or someone else, if I’m not available, make sure it’s someone that will hold your audiences attention. If you don’t have the budget for a great motivational speaker or great corporate entertainer then I’d highly suggest skipping that portion of the event and making the other parts even better. Hiring someone that isn’t great will make your event horrible and you and your guests don’t want that.
As you plan your event realize that everyone knows you are the one planning it or could find out who did within a few seconds. Is the quality something you’d want to put your name or your company’s name behind? Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.