First impressions matter. They just do. My children got tired of my way of ruining movies by stopping the action to make a point. Remember the scene from Apollo 13 when Gary Sinise, playing Ken Mattingly, had worked nonstop for 18 hours to devise a way to bring the crew home? He was bone tired. He had a hodgepodge of trash he had to sell to desperate colleagues as the way to save their lives. He steps from the car and first off, he dons a suit coat and straightens his tie. Boom! Right there. He demonstrated the importance of appearances. Then he picked up his props. He knew these people, but each working relationship offers multiple meet & greet situations, doesn’t it? We’re talking about a one time and continuing form of relationship building.
Universally accepted, Psychology Today describes basic attributes which work together to create first impressions. At first glance, the skinny looks intimidating, because most of these things rest outside our control. Things like the shape of a person’s face, vocal inflections, attractiveness and the subconscious expression of one’s emotional state are modulated into an impression affecting present and future work relationships. If you are a cog in the wheel of merchandising the products of another, it is incumbent upon you to form that first key interaction as a positive harbinger of many future interactions. Your company needs that relationship and your client needs it as well. No pressure. It’s just that it all rests on you. Let’s make that less intimidating.
Let’s talk about things you can consciously do to enhance that first meet & greet. Naturally you want to tone down any personal quirkiness that can turn others off. If you speak loudly, work on using your indoor voice. If you are riddled with nervous mannerisms, learn to keep them at bay for five minutes. Keep two or three meet & greet smashing outfits in your closet. Practice that look, that greeting, that handshake or touch designed to impress. It’s not like you have a long performance ahead of you. Practice for five minutes, because there may be interruptions. It’s really about two or three minutes, because none of us are that interesting. The key point is simple: we’re talking about little nuances like adjusting cuffs as well as well groomed nails. You can control some things and make them work for you.
Another favorite movie is We Bought A Zoo. Remember Matt Damon describing twenty seconds of insane courage? I love that. We all have a bit of introvert within us, and that bit grows intimidated by the importance of a meet & greet, by all that rests on one conversation, and that twenty seconds can produce an alarming number of butterflies, can’t it? But that’s the whole point here. Practice. Put your best face (and foot) forward. Master the art of the meet & greet. If you are a born schmoozer, you may think you already have it down pat, but reality may surprise you. Yes, you live with confidence, but that may masquerade as arrogance and you may need these rehearsals as much as your introverted colleagues. No one is exempt from the requisite of learning how to improve the meet & greet.
Stand up. Make eye contact. Introduce yourself without being prompted. The LA Times recently tackled the whole question of handshaking in this panic strewn world of heightened awareness of COVID-19. Come up with a phrase you feel comfortable saying, that slides off your tongue without getting garbled. “I haven’t washed my hands since leaving my last appointment.” Lightly touch a shoulder or elbow. “Let me assure you, I am ready for this new venture!” But you get the point, right? Make a sincere, solid connection that is the basis of a long term relationship. Master the skinny on the meet & greet and do it like a boss. You got this!