Sunday, July 15, 2007

Make a POWERFUL Impression

Make a POWERFUL Impression

By: Joseph W. Norman

How do you make a great impression? With so much stress on the adage, “You don’t get a second chance at a first impression,” what is the proper procedure to not screw it up? There are many tips out there, but here are a few that have worked for me. You are in for a treat…

A good friend of mine, Chris McVicker, Chairman and CEO of The Flanders Group and Chairperson of the Business Advisory Council for the Jones School of Business at SUNY Geneseo, once gave me some advice about making an impression that has made a powerful impact on my life. He said, when you meet somebody they assess you with the three twelve’s;

  • Twelve feet (your appearance, or “presence”),
  • Twelve inches (your handshake, or “feel”), and,
  • Twelve words (your composure and style).

NOTABLE: My interpretations are in parentheses. Also, these principles will help you answer “Yes!” to the next question…

When you go somewhere are you prepared to connect? To establish a positive appearance, take a little extra time in the morning to class yourself up. Work on the subtle things that put you above and beyond the rest. A few things that I have done to improve my “twelve feet effect” are add a few shirts with French Cuffs and some nice cuff links to my wardrobe.

I’m not saying you have to go out and pick up some cuff links (the less people that wear them, the better I look), but find something unique that you can add to your usual “classy” outfits to take them over the top. Also, don’t be afraid to take a little extra time in the morning on a casual day, because you never know who you might meet. KEY FACT: Class up in your own style! If you don’t believe in your efforts, they will be fruitless.

Next, there is nothing more important than a good handshake. Constantly, when I meet new people I make an immediate assessment of them by the strength and “confidence” in their handshake. Have you ever had the infamous “dead fish” handshake? Are you a culprit of this weak-wrist, credibility destroyer? If so, FIX IT!

Not much matters more to me than receiving a good firm handshake because it says you mean business. And, business is personal, so this fact pertains to all arenas – whether it is meeting a potential “love” interest, a new friend or teammate, or business associate. It matters! You don’t want a potential relationship to run astray because you dished out a “lame duck” handshake.

So, how do you make an impression with a handshake? The rule of thumb is firm enough to stand out, but not a bone crushing blow. When in doubt, err on the side of being firm rather than take a chance on becoming known as the “soft gripper.”

Also, do not shake with your finger tips - this is supposed to be a “hand” shake. Nothing is more awkward then a professional handshake gone awry because you didn’t dig in a little bit. Go right at the “zone” between the pointer finger and thumb of the potential friend with your own “zone.” Hit it, and hit it hard. Let them know you respect their interest in you by putting in a little effort. KEY FACT: Don’t be misguided by all the handshake tom foolery out there - always go for the “zone!”

EXTRA TOUCH: Impress like a politician (they’re not all bad, and are often quite charismatic). When you shake, add the other hand in a light two handed clasp, or touch the forearm or elbow of the “shakee.” I often go for the elbow - it adds warmth to the interaction. Why the elbow? People aren’t as protective of it and it’s more intimate. Again, develop your own style.

Now, how do you tackle the twelve words rule? DO YOUR HOMEWORK! I know these evil words have been thrown about academia forever, but they’re even more important for your personal lives. You must find out who you need to connect with in your industry. Once you have the name, do your homework – read their articles, research their interests and hobbies, find out where they’re going to be, and be there.

I frequent conferences and on campus events in an effort to build relationships with the attendees and speakers. You know who is going to speak because you have seen the flyer or brochure. Thanks to the internet, there is no reason you can’t dig up a little information. Do a “Google Audit,” as we call it at Notable and Newsworthy, and prepare some information on the person so you are ready to connect.

I will constantly take notes on people before and after I meet them so that, 1) I can build a personal relationship with them through “small talk,” 2) I can follow up with that personal information later – building an even stronger bond, and 3) I never lose track of anybody. NOTABLE: When Bill Clinton attended college at Georgetown, he started to fill out index cards on each person he met during the day. Today, he is known as one of the most charismatic leaders of our time because of his incredibly personal approach.

ACTION PLAN: Develop your own system for remembering personal facts about the people you meet. Then, take action and keep following up!

With the personal information at hand, you will not be “at a loss for words” when you finally meet this highly desired acquaintance. Also, you will not sound like a bumbling idiot – a fate often feared worse then death. Proper preparation leads to powerful performance.

With a little work each day on improving your “three twelve’s,” you can take your personal style of making an impression to a whole new level. Remember, “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” – Jim Rohn.

Check back for more information on topics such as, “Small Talk for a Big Effect,” “Commanding a Presence,” and “The Art of Personal Development.” - JWN

NOTABLE: Joseph Norman is co-founder of a weekly e-newsletter, Notable and Newsworthy: VIP Profiles, with his friend and business partner, Ben DeGeorge. Together they have built relationships with dynamic leaders in many organizations and industries. For more information, check out:, or, email Joseph at