This morning I was asked to give a short talk to some local businesses in Chiswick about the importance of a good first impression. Although not directly related to photography, for many businesses (and individuals) there will be some overlap. Something I’ve talked about before to businesses is the harm a bad photograph can do… Here’s an extract of my talk
Do you remember, at least in the old days before mobile phones and social media, preparing for a first date? If you were late, forget it. If you turned up badly dressed, or unwashed, or were rude and obnoxious… No second date.
And it’s the same with your first meeting with a client or a job interview. We all know the importance of the first impression. The evidence is pretty strong (eye contact, speed of speech, smartness, the appearance of wealth, shoes, piercings, tattoos, handshakes all affect perception> ), and it would be foolish to ignore it.
For your first job interview, I bet you agonised over which clothes to wear. You made sure you turned up at the sweet spot of not too early (and desperate) and definitely not late. You were polite. You had a firm handshake and made eye contact. The same with any first meeting with a potential client. You were careful to say the right things.
But nowadays the first impression probably isn’t made in person (or on a phone call). It might be through advertising, but most likely it’s through your website. And the same ideas apply. Your potential clients will have the same biases and expectations - and you won’t be there to turn things around if they aren’t positive.
For example, if you don’t have a website or it’s out of date, you might not be perceived as a legitimate or trustworthy business; if it’s badly designed, or full of typos, it will reflect negatively on you; if it takes too long to load or isn’t mobile optimised, people (and Google for the latter) will give up on you before you’ve had a chance. If your social media is visible to clients and ‘business inappropriate’, you’re damaging your first impression.
The same is true for business and networking meetings. Are you on time? Are you dressed appropriately? Are you saying the right things? At a breakfast meeting, moaning about the early start is not endearing; joking about the need for a coffee, with a smile, brings an ‘all in it together’ attitude and encourages conversation. Your attitude affects the perception of you and your business, so treat the meetings like you would a job interview (although without the nerves).
If you’re not sure how to make a better first impression, speak to a professional, whether a business or personal coach for human interactions or a designer, developer, creative or programmer for the web aspects. And maybe it’ll help bring in more business…
Although I didn’t focus on photography, a headshot on your website or LinkedIn is the most likely place your potential clients or employers will see you first. If your business photograph is a grainy image of you, half-dressed, on a beach with a large cocktail, is this the impression you want to give (it might well be - it all depends what you do and what image you want to portray, but it should be intentional)? It might be worth investing in a professional headshot, the value of which could be far greater than you imagine if it creates the right first impression.