With 14 000 unique users, the mentorship programme on Ndalo Media’s website, www.destinyconnect.com, is proving a valuable partnership as a source of inspiration to ambitious African executives and professionals focused on accomplishing their prospective career goals. From Feb 7th to June 5th 2010, I’m on the on-line mentor on this site, representing the theme “How to make a great first impression”. Here are my initial responses to the questions put to me by the DestinyConnect  team; do they leave you with a great impression?

What are the most important elements of making a good first impression?

Here’s the all-inclusive phrase – be charismatic – it’s that personal quality that gives you influence, power and authority (in good ways). Charisma does not relate to your body design – you can be short, tall, thin or fat – nor to your jewellery, or car or position in life.  Charisma isn’t tangible, it’s a spiritual notion – it’s about allowing others to meet your spirit – the most powerful part of your personality. Charisma is developed through personal awareness and spiritual intent and, as the saying goes, if you haven’t got it yet, it’s OK to fake it until you make it!  Consider these five important steps toward developing the qualities of charismatic people:

  1. Be humble – relinquish your need to show off or gloat and gush about how brilliant you are – keep yourself out of the limelight
  2. Show that you are other-people centred.  Encourage people to talk about themselves. Be curious.  Ask questions.  You’ll win friends and connections this way who will be eager to see you again.
  3. Consider the impression you want to make and match your appearance accordingly.  Remember that our clothing should tell a story of the person we’re becoming, not the person we were.
  4. Be alive – be animated and enthusiastic and laugh and smile often.  No one is attracted to the walking dead.
  5. Take some risks.  Stretch yourself.  People are drawn to people who aren’t afraid to try something new.         

How long does it take to make a lasting first impression?

According to the current research on WikiAnswers – 10 seconds – yikes!  My advice is not to get hung-up on the time it takes but rather and with awareness, focus on the quality of your interactions. Remember that not everyone is impressed by everyone else – that’s just the way it is – so don’t take rejections too personally.  Learn from them and move on.      

How does one learn to master the art of small talk?

Learn to master the art of inquisitiveness. Be genuinely curious in what people are saying. Give them your full attention. Demonstrate good listening skills. Give positive verbal cues like “Hmmm… interesting!” “Tell me more, please.” “What did you do next?”  Show interest.  And don’t think of it as small talk, its important ice-breaking talk. 

If one is really nervous when meeting an important person for the first time, how can you calm your nerves and boost your confidence?

Use affirmation and visualization techniques before the meeting.  Visualize yourself as calm, confident and charismatic.  Visualize the person responding positively to your meeting.  During the visualization, repeatedly tell yourself  ‘I am leaving this person with the impression that I am…..’ (you choose the words).  And for added benefit, learn some breathing techniques to slow down your heart rate and calm your nerves (I recommend any form of yoga breath-work).   

What is your power perspective?

There is nothing more impactful, magnetic, progressive and enjoyable than the truly authentic personality.