How To Make A Great And Lasting Impression
Do you often find yourself admiring Peter’s cufflinks at meetings? Does Sanjay have that unique way of making employees feel good after they’ve had a major victory? Does Janet always remember everyone’s birthday in a special way?
Some say you have less than six seconds to make a first impression. Whether you look at research or your own experience, that sentiment rings true. But stylish ways and thoughtful actions are more than just a first impression, or even a second or third. What if you could make multiple impressions even if you’re not in the same room as your viewer? Or if you are in the same room, as a striking way to differentiate yourself? Such impressions win you respect, admiration, and even business—and help advance your personal brand.
I’m talking about cultivating your own way of communicating via your image and your actions that instantly bring to mind your name and reputation. I call this concept your “signature piece.” The signature can take several forms. If powerful communication and lasting impressions are your goal, a good method is to focus on two distinct areas for signature pieces: a signature wardrobe item, like Peter’s cufflinks, and a signature action, like Janet’s always-timely birthday greetings.
Your signature items should be both authentic and intentional. You never want to seem like you’re copying someone. The IAP Formula can help in that process, providing an efficient way to prepare for any communication moment, and in this case, identifying a signature piece: I = Intent; A = Audience analysis; and P = Powerful performance.
All three parts of the IAP Formula are co-equal, but intent really drives the entire process. Intent can be specific—making sure people know you have the distinction of graduating magna cum laude; or more general—showcasing your commitment to preserving lake shoreline. Audience analysis comprises all you can learn about the people who will see you, listen to you, read about you, or even encounter your persona in any digital or online format. All data points about your target audience or audiences are important. They help guide your powerful performance, which translates into how you communicate your message to a particular audience to carry out your intent with the signature piece.
For your signature wardrobe item, first ask yourself who you are and what you know. This will help you identify an intent that isn’t forced. If you are an accountant who has a great record with clients, perhaps your signature piece is green socks (the color of money, after all) or a tie with a dollar-sign motif. This may seem trivial, but wouldn’t you remember those items on someone? Sometimes a signature piece turns into a conversation starter, and even then it’s serving a purpose. At a networking event in a room full of strangers, having someone approach you to start a conversation could be your intent. What an easy way to get that going with the dollar-sign tie or a Minnesota loon lapel pin.
For proper audience analysis when identifying your signature piece, ask yourself who sees you and whom you would like to impress or influence. If your main audiences are very buttoned-up, pants with a wild pattern are not your best choice. Many of my clients are in traditional office settings where it’s better to err on the side of wardrobe caution. To stay true to my sense of fun and style while respecting their norms, I adopted unique shoes as my signature piece. Whether they have fun patterns, unique colors, or just chunky heels, my signature shoes are something many clients and colleagues have come to expect. Not only does this bring some fun to my day-to-day meetings, it also is an easy way to add some life to neutral and traditionally tailored suits.
Achieving a powerful performance once you identify your audiences and your intent means using your image and body language to best present your signature statement. Whatever you choose, it should be clean and in good condition. It can even be something about you, not something you wear, but again, use good judgment for your best performance. Summer in Minnesota is a great time to show off those toned arms you worked on all winter by wearing a colorful sheath dress to work or post-work happy hour. But be careful: Baring arms in a dress is good; bringing too much cleavage to that rooftop office party—not so good.
Be mindful about how often you repeat one signature wardrobe item. Be aware of reactions to your signature piece and monitor its use accordingly. The signature wardrobe item is really a way to express your personality and add some originality to your work life.
Just as you can use this formula to identify your signature wardrobe item, you can also use this communication process to select one or more signature actions.
Going back to who you are and what you know, identify your intent for your signature action. What values are important to you? Is it to support your colleagues or supervisees? To praise others’ actions? To leave your mark long after you’ve connected with an audience? There’s no right or wrong. Just be sure you are authentic and intentional with your signature action.
For audience analysis, once again figure out whom you will meet and what they are expecting, to understand your intent.
Finally, your powerful performance comes through with solid image, body language, and vocal behavior. If you send a birthday recognition for your signature action, do so with style and try to personalize it with something you know about the recipient. If you have company gifts such as a letter opener or portfolio with the company logo to send special clients, be sure to include a personalized note to add a customized touch.
Signature pieces can prove unique ways to realize your business and branding goals. They also provide creative outlets to differentiate yourself in the marketplace, build your reputation, and inspire colleagues and clients.
You are the only one who can develop and protect your brand. I challenge you to wow with your own signature pieces. You might even find they pay big dividends when you’re not around.