Do First Impressions Still Matter?

We have all heard the old adage many times over that, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression”. But does this really apply in business today?

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to speak to members of a national association at their annual conference on the topic of “How to Improve Your 30-Second Elevator Pitch”. One of the questions I asked the participants’ was “in a networking group setting today, do first impressions still matter?”

Let’s face it, in this fast-paced social networking era, establishing a great first (and lasting) impression is becoming more challenging for all of us. Why? First of all, more frequently our new relationships are being formed by way of virtual connections and not face-to-face interactions.

Second, with continued emphasis on social media, we are all becoming less attentive (or ADD), so it’s harder to make a lasting first impression. Test my theory at the next networking meeting you attend. Observe what happens when 4 or 5 people in a row start their 30-second introductions with their name and business name. If this happens about 30-35% of the people in the room will pull out their smart phones and check email. It is difficult to make a lasting first impression with the masses if 30% or more of your target audience is not paying attention.

The Reticular Activation System (RAS) is a concept first introduced by Tony Robbins in “Awaken the Giant Within”. It’s part of the subconscious mind that acts as a filter so we’re not overwhelmed by sensory perceptions. It is also how we can tune things out. In today’s modern era, the RAS must be working overtime, because each of us is bombarded by 3,500-4,000 messages a day from various sources that must be filtered.

However, there is an upside to the “white noise” challenges. If you routinely attend networking groups that meet on a weekly basis, you have the ability to “refresh” those relationships on a continual basis. This offers you a unique opportunity to change those initial perceptions (good or bad) through your future interactions with current and new group members.

So, back to this article’s main point, do first impressions still matter? In my opinion, the answer is still “yes” if that initial impression is compelling. However, just as we tend to communicate in sound bites today, we also build new relationships in a similar manner. Relationships with customers, partners and suppliers are stitched together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle in much the same way as basic communication.

The “net-net” of all this is that first impressions may or may not carry any more weight than 2nd, 3rd or 4th impressions depending on the way these new relationships are developed over time. However, if you want to ensure you are making a great impression, the first time and every time, it is important to be likeable, engaging, consistent and above all, a resource to others.

What are your thoughts? Do first impressions still matter?


COPYRIGHT © 2012-17 John Carroll