"Star Trek had it right," says Ottawa networking guru Michael Hughes: There's nothing like "First Contact." The impression you make when you meet someone for the first time will last indefinitely—so you have to get it right the first time.
Taken from a recent copy of Hughes' newsletter, here are some of the mistakes he has seen otherwise professional business people make lately:
- A (male) coaching client of Hughes' arrived at a networking event without a jacket. "My first impression was that he was less professional (and less successful) than everyone else," writes Hughes.
- A new connection was explaining his area of focus, then abruptly started talking about a different subject, "leaving me confused and somewhat frustrated."
- When Hughes asked a new contact for a business card, the contact complied—but apologized that his contact information was out of date. "I wasn't impressed," says Hughes.
Here are a few more First Contact faux-pas that that I commonly encounter at business events:
- People who don't introduce themselves well. Either they don't know how to explain what they do, or they overestimate people's interest in the topic, and drone on so long they alienate the very people they are trying to impress.
- Failing to ask someone about their job or profession after they have asked what you do. Showing interest in other people is the best way of demonstrating you're a conscientious professional.
- Hanging back, waiting for someone to talk to you. I get that you're shy. Most people are. But you have to stop holding up the walls, and join a conversation going on in the middle of the room. If you're worried about breaking up a set, just ask if there's room in their chatfest for one more.
- Failure to make good conversation. Before attending any business or networking event, hit Google or listen to a radio news station to find out what's been happening today. Be the first person in the group to know how low the stock market dipped today, or what's behind the latest Twitter scandal. Information is the first currency of business, and other people are impressed by those in the know.
No businessperson sets out to appear unprofessional, but problems and blunders such as these happen every day. "You rarely, if ever, get a second chance to make a first impression," says Hughes. "Make sure that First Contact reflects your professionalism and your value."