We’ll try to not beat the long-dead horse about how significant first impressions can be. You’ve heard it all your life that initial perceptions are hard to un-do, and with a business it’s certainly no different. When you commit to a small business, it’s important to consider what impression you give, and to recognize what magnitude of impressions you might influence. For example, it’s estimated that at a conference, you can make between 30-100 impressions in a single day. So! With this in mind, check out our tips for creating a solid first impression as a small business owner or entrepreneur.
- Appearance Counts. This does include how you dress; avoid looking sloppy or casual to the point where you look like you don’t care. But you also want to avoid looking overly stiff and uppity. People do make split judgments on how one looks, so try to appear stylish, without anything over the top. It’s also understood that your target audience and product can influence your dress choice. If you sell snowboarding gear, for example, wearing a suit and tie at your booth might not be as appropriate as it might if you sold office products. Use your judgement and tread carefully.
- Be attentive. It’s becoming a rare moment that we offer undivided attention to others. If someone shows interest in you or your business, be genuine: make eye contact, listen more than you speak, and DO NOT look at your phone. Act in a professional manner that reflects your business, rather than you as a person. Also stay on top of social cues, both the ones you express and the ones you receive. If someone seems uninterested, work to end the conversation or change subjects. Be aware of what your own body language is saying at all times.
- Plan an elevator speech. That is, the ability to explain your business in 10-30 seconds. Know your business plan and gain the ability to communicate it effectively to others. Have business cards at the ready, and be equally willing to receive information. Not having these skills ahead of time will make your impression lack significantly.
Overall, stay positive. While it’s difficult to change one’s initial impression, it’s not impossible. If you realize you hadn’t done one of the three above well, work to correct it and try again in the future. Studies have shown that people do have the ability to change perceptions when presented with new information. So work on improving your delivery of the information they need if it’s been an issue, and keep moving forward! There’s obviously a lot of pressure on a small business owner to have full control over impressions that influence their entire livelihood, but practice, do your best, and never stop striving for improvement.