The Value of a First Impression
Making a great first impression is necessary when you are a dancer in the field of many other dancers. It is also important in becoming a trusted leader in your studio. Have you ever just rolled out of bed, threw on some sweats and a t-shirt, slid on your flip flops and your hair wasn’t brushed? What if you rolled into school and your teacher asked you to stand up in front of the class to read the morning announcements. What kind of impression do you think you make on your class? On your teacher? On your own?
First impressions are so important and they happen in the first 7 seconds. They can also be positive or negative. As dancers, we know the first impression is a lasting impression. How are you showing up when you walk into the studio, into rehearsal, on stage or even into competition. Your first impression says a lot about who you are.
Let’s take a look at 3 main characteristics of first impressions.
Physical Appearance- How you dress and how you look physically on the outside will be a direct impression of how you are received by others. This is not always a positive characteristic in that we may judge others by their physical appearance before we get to know the real person they are. However, in order to make a positive first impression, we must remember to “polish” up our physical appearance according to the situation or event we are showing up for. It is better to overdress than underdress. Remember to “Dress for Success!” Take time to prepare how you look before in order to receive a positive first impression.
● Giving a speech- Look sharp, wear clean and ironed clothes, hair combed, polished shoes.
● Sports practice- Appropriate uniform for practice, hair back, tied shoes, no jeans.
● Shopping in the mall- Casual and comfy clothes but for goodness sakes, don’t wear pajama pants!
Body Language- Sometimes your body language says as much about you as your spoken language. Keep your posture open and inviting. Make eye contact, stand tall and pull your shoulders back. Your body language will have a positive first impression if it shows confidence, genuineness and attentiveness. Your body language will have a negative first impression if it closes others off, appears that you don’t care or looks like you are not listening.
● Speaking to adults- Look them in the eye, open posture and no fidgeting.
● In the classroom- Sitting up straight in your seat, eyes on the teacher, looking attentive and engaged. Avoid head on the desk, arms crossed or feet up on the chair in front of you.
● Dance class- Standing up straight and attentive. Posture tall and arms unfolded.
Tone- The tone you use in your conversation creates a first impression quickly from others. Speak confidently and clearly. Avoid slurring your words and talk clearly. Think about the inflection of your voice. If you want to show excitement, make sure the tone of your voice reflects that. If you need to show attentiveness or seriousness, make sure your voice is not casual or too soft.
● Presenting in front of your class: Speak loud and clear. Slow down your words and finish the end of every sentence.
● Your teacher asks you a question- answer in a clear and concise tone that they can understand with respect to your teacher.
● You are reading a book to a group of elderly people- Use a loud, crisp, speaking voice with energy and enthusiasm.
In addition to the 3 characteristics above, another important impression to make is when you are greeting or introducing someone to another person. The initial greeting of someone, when you first meet them, is important to first impressions and will determine the trust they will have in you.
Remember these tips for successful greetings
★ Look the person in the eye
★ Give a solid and firm handshake
★ Always stand up when greeting someone
Another way to make a great first impression is to know how to properly greet people and how to make introductions of others.
Tips for Making a Great Introduction
● Look at the person you are speaking to first, then turn to the other person as you complete the introduction.
● Speak clearly. Mumbling defeats the purpose of the introduction.
● Use courteous language. “I’d like to introduce…,” “May I introduce…,” “I’d like you to meet…” are all good options. “May I present…” is the formal version.
● Use preferred names and titles. In more formal situations, or when there’s an obvious age difference, it’s best to use courtesy titles and last names: “Mrs. Samson, I’d like you to meet Mr. Jacobs.” This lets Mrs. Samson invite Mr. Jacobs to use her first name, or not.
● Even in informal situations or with contemporaries, it’s helpful to use first and last names: “Judy, this is Tom Jacobs. Tom, this is Judy Samson.” You can use a nickname if you know the person prefers it.
Remember first impressions happen in the first 7 seconds. It is up to you if you want to stand out and make a lasting impression.