Not too long ago I went to an event for the National Association of Asian MBA’s. It was an action packed event with 4 outstanding speakers focusing on communication skills. I wasn’t scheduled to speak, but at the end of the event they asked me to come up and say a few words about my book.
Considering I didn’t expect to speak at the event I didn’t prepare anything to say (mistake #1), so I had go up there and “wing it” for a couple of minutes.
Walking up to the podium I knew the audience was a bit tired so I needed to grab their attention immediately.
I looked out at the audience, put my book over my head and said “who cares that I wrote a book”. No one raised their hand, then I dropped my book on the floor and said “no one”. Then I said “In the business world if you’re pitching a concept to investors they don’t buy into your concept because you have the best presentation, they buy into your concept because they buy into you.
In the business world people don’t get promoted just on their job performance, they get promoted because of their job performance and because someone buys into them, and its starts with your first impression.
Your first impression acts as the measuring stick for all future interactions with a person”. I briefly talked about the AHEAD technique in the book which provides a framework for creating great elevator speeches on the fly, and shows you how to build a conversation from your elevator speech. My final point to the audience was that 15 seconds could be the difference between fast tracking your career or watching it stand still for years.
About 15 minutes later one of the speakers came up to me and said “Do you know you disrespected the audience in the first 15 seconds of your talk”? With a confused look on my face, I said “what do you mean”? She said “In the Asian culture books are considered sacred and you are taught to cherish them. Dropping a book on the floor shows that you didn’t value them and that was your own work”. I was stunned and thanked her for the insight (mistake #2), as we jumped into another conversation.
Looking back, I realized two things from that night:
- Always be prepared to have something to say even when you think you’re not going to say a word. There I was selling a book that teaches people how to be prepared to talk about themselves at a networking event, but I wasn’t prepared to talk to them on stage.
- Know your audience. Culture differences can be invisible to someone not familiar with them. Always do your research.
In the book, First Impressions for the Business Professional – Why Some of Us Excel and Most of Us Fail, learn critical skills for meetings and presentations in the business world.
Key Lesson: Our business first impression is a critical component to our success. When we overlook little things, they can have a big impact. Always look to maximize your first impressions by being prepared at all times.
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