Two businessmen set off to a tradeshow. They're both dressed to the nines. Each has planned well-rehearsed speeches and phrases to use when people ask about their company. At the tradeshow, they both encounter the same scenario. A gentleman they've been trying to network with for ages has given each of them a moment of his time, which in this case is no longer than two minutes. Each one is on point when it comes to making small talk and driving home the important parts of his business. But the colleagues deviate towards the end of the chatter. As they part ways, one gentleman reaches in his pocket for a business card. He hands it off and both men are on their way. The other, however, fumbles. He reaches in the deep pocket of his trench coat and fishes out – wallet, cellphone, gum, cigar – no cards. He nervously scribbles his information onto a gum wrapper and awkwardly apologizes. Who is the prominent businessman likely to recall in this case?
Maybe the real answer is both of the gentlemen, however, not necessarily for the best. Here's why the guy with the business card ready to go will most likely be the one getting a call back.
Impressions take seconds
For starters, a person typically only has seven seconds to make a first impression, reported Business Insider. That's rarely enough time to give an acquaintance the chance to learn about work. Even if a brief discussion is held in that short time frame, it's likely the people will recall actions, appearance and body language over the actual information disclosed. The author of "Breakthrough Networking", Lillian Bjorseth, spoke to Entrepreneur about this phenomenon. Rather than seven, she believes people have 10 seconds to make it count. She explained that sometimes people don't need to say a word to one another before the judgment is made.
"The aura is the area around you that you create by what you wear, how you act, how you look," she says. "It all goes together to make one impression. You could wear a very expensive suit, but if you stand slumped over with your head down, you won't give a confident aura."
Actions over words
This holds especially true at events like tradeshows because according to Entrepreneur, people are walking billboards for their companies. This means that whatever they do is a representation of that particular business as a whole. For someone to make it all the way through an important networking conversation, only to drop the ball at the last moment, is a rookie move in today's market. Those few seconds of ill preparation can undo months of hard work. Not only did the guy without the business cards blow it, he might have dirtied his company's reputation.
Don't be that guy
Bjorseth explained that first impressions encompass virtually everything about the interaction. The poor sap who forgot his business cards at home clearly had a problem, but the other guy might not be any better off if he didn't have good charisma as well. What's more, anyone who's carrying a business card should make a mental note to be smiling and engaged.
First impressions aren't just an exaggeration. They're one of the most important parts of meeting a new person.