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I attended the Smart Company awards last week. I always find it interesting with a room full of people who know almost no one how people interact. Some people stay as hidden as possible in the back of the room, but this was a room of entrepreneurs…. and we are by nature ‘sales people’. Always selling our ideas or concepts. Earlier this week I was also asked to present to 150 people about the art of networking – now I had never considered myself a ‘networker’ but I do know that if I see a room full of people who I have never met… somewhere inside me I think..’Goody a whole room of potential new friends’ many people are exactly the reverse. First impressions are very important in the networking process – as they are in sales.

My mother is very big on etiquette. Doing, saying and acting appropriately in the company.  Whilst she is considered old school – some of the lessons are exactly perfect for first impressions…’you have 2 ears and 1 mouth dear, and that is the proportion you should use them.’

It’s all about them.

First impressions are important. It takes but the blink of an eye to ‘judge and assesses’ a person we meet for the first time. As Malcolm Gladwell told us is Blink we are determined to hang on to that opinion, because we want to make sure that we were ‘right’ about our first impression.

Apparently, a first impression takes 2 seconds and is related to our primitive instincts of fight or flight. Is this person friend or foe? The first impression is based primarily on physical attributes: gender, size, smile and facial expression and the eyes. What people wear is also important in the first impression it signifies ‘who we hang out with’. I heard it recently referred to as ‘tribal wear’.

The greeting is part of it too. We all know about sloppy handshakes. But did the person look you in the eye – was there a connection of some sort? Did you have the impression that they were interested in you as a person?

If the person has the knack of making others feel intelligent and fascinating “the most important person in the room” – if so you are likely to really like that person. People love being the centre of attention so if you are really interested in them, they will know. Keep the spotlight on them for as long as possible. Questions should be open-ended to encourage conversation. Talk 20% of the time and listen 80% of the time. People associate you with whatever feeling you evoke in them on a regular basis. Therefore stay away from depressing, negative topics. 50% of the messages you send out are non-verbal. People feel more comfortable when you mimic their body language (perhaps in a modified or delayed fashion).

People like happy people who remember their name. The most beautiful sound to us is our name. So I use memory tricks to associate a name with someone so that if I meet them in the future I have a chance of remembering them. I meet many people…and of course, there are some that I just don’t remember, but they know me. I now say ‘Good to see you.’ which could imply that I have met them before – but also covers me if I have not.

I have had several people say to me – ‘Oh you might not remember me but I applied for a job with RedBalloon’. Hence they may only ever have been introduced to me through a CV. Of course, I think to myself, ‘Did they have a good experience? Did we live up to our brand commitment?’ But still, in that instant, it is my job to make sure that they are appreciated for the efforts they made in applying for a position at RedBalloon Days.

I do this by nature because I’m naturally a curious person. Others need to work at it – but it is worth the effort.

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