Career Forum Apr 2016: Desmond So’s tips on good self-introductions could give jobseekers a crucial edge
While one expert might tell you it takes three seconds to form an opinion about someone, and another might say it’s 30, the importance of making a positive first impression on an interviewer, colleague or business contact cannot be overstated.
“Making a good first impression can alleviate a lot of the hard work it can take to win over another person’s trust and confidence,” says Desmond So, founder and chief consultant at East-West Institute of Applied Etiquette.
So will hold a seminar entitled “Present yourself well by short self-introduction” at the Career Forum. As well as talking through some tips on developing and projecting a confident and professional image, he will also give advice on making introductions, and how expressing yourself genuinely while doing so can put others at ease.
“When you can be authentic and confident in your introductions, you are far more likely to make a positive impression,” So says.
He explains that adding a memorable point of interest to your introduction – often referred to as a “memory hook” – instead of just saying your name is a way of making an engaging first impression.
“The introduction is an opportunity to tell people who you are and encourage them to be interested in speaking to you, while you also listen to them,” he says. He adds that it is vital to be receptive in those first moments, which involves asking questions and listening intently.
So graduated from Princeton University in the US with a degree in East Asian studies and subsequently earned a JD in law and an MBA. While working as a private banker in Hong Kong, he noticed there was a lot of room for improvement in etiquette and interpersonal skills.
East-West works with individuals, corporate executives and university students to help them develop interpersonal skills and etiquette awareness. The aim is to turn face-to-face meetings into opportunities to grow one’s professional influence.
So says that because few people are born with the natural ability to project confidence and engage easily with others, these skills need to be developed and fine-tuned through constant practice.
“Often, those people who are admired for being the people that others want to talk to have worked on their engagement skills,” he says.
Together with a warm smile and an appropriately firm handshake, eye contact completes the trinity needed for a great first impression, he explains. However, while eye contact produces a feeling of mutual likability and trustworthiness, too much eye contact – such as outright staring at the person in front of you – is almost always received as being overbearing, and even strange.
Like most things these days, the practice of maintaining eye contact during a conversation is being challenged by technology. So explains that many people use smartphones to check and send messages during in-person interactions. Depending on the participants, however, this is not always viewed positively.
“Good manners have always changed over time in response to new social norms, but today’s technologies are creating a major challenge for many long-held etiquette beliefs,” he says.
“While we must strike a balance with changing times, as a rule of thumb I would recommend the person in front of you takes priority over digital communication.”