Posing practice is an integral part of contest prep. You can have the best physique in your class and lose it with your first step out onto stage. Hesitant, tentative, shaky, unhappy…flush. I mean, flushing sound down the toilet. Never mind how prepared, deserving, or knowledgeable you are, the halo effect reminds you…
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
As cliche as that may sound, the first impression is indeed your largest selling opportunity.
But, I’m not in sales.”
I disagree. Everyone is in sales. You sell yourself on stage as much as you do at the workplace or in any situation where you are trying to exert influence. Of course, the “what” varies, but the first impression can turn a sale sideways in a snap. Recovery is possible…sometimes, but why not mitigate or avoid that entirely? A positive first impression creates an accelerating circle…around your head…a.k.a. the halo effect.
The exaggerated impact of first impressions is related to the halo effect, that phenomenon whereby the perception of positive qualities in one thing or part gives rise to the perception of similar qualities in related things or in the whole.” ~Psychology Today
For example, if you see a hair stylist with bad hair, wouldn’t you think twice?
Likewise, every fitness infomercial is cast knowing that people judge the effectiveness of a fitness class or product by the physique of the person demonstrating it. Rightly or wrongly so. The reality is that spokesperson may have never used the product…or, at least, it wasn’t the contributing factor to what got him/her into shape! Yet, we subconsciously use the first impression to quickly assess whether this person is deserving of our continued attention.
The first impression is a strong segue to building credibility and trust.
As a fitness professional, if I don’t look a certain way, why would anyone “trust” me with their body? It’s not vain or shallow, it’s a smart strategy ensconced in reality.
We understand intuitively that first impressions matter, but to what extent? It depends. Depends on what you’re selling and the timeframe for the interaction. Here are some questions to ponder:
1) What is the ask? Are you asking someone to buy a cup of coffee or a new belief? The greater the stretch, the more important the first impression will be.
2) How much time is involved? On stage, judges have minutes to decide the winner. When time is of the essence, the halo effect expands to accommodate quick decision-making.
3) How much informational assymmetry is there? Are there things about your offering that customers simply cannot know until they experience it? Halo effect expands where transparency is lacking.
4) How much iteration will there be in this relationship? Is this a one-shot meeting or the start of an ongoing relationship? One-shot meetings make the halo effect more pronounced.
5) Are you the main event or the side show? Think about your tolerance for an unpleasant receptionist when the specialist is amazing…and vice versa.
While what matters most about your first impression is dependent on your profession or role…and the person you’re “impressing”, your first impression matters. A whole lot. We live in a world where companies are starting to reward employees for taking care of their wellness. While these companies may be primarily motivated by lowering their health insurance premiums and improving employee productivity, companies are wise to see this as a top-line strategy. You and I are wise to see this as a career…and life-winning strategy.
Suit up to show up. Suit up to succeed. It doesn’t matter what profession you are in. It doesn’t matter whether your name is on the door, you are still selling yourself. Your first impression is an accelerator or decelerator toward your success…on stage as in life!