First Impressions

Three different photos of one and the same man are organized into one picture. Short-haired man smiling in different clothing.

When it comes to survival, people are geniuses. And an important survival tool is the ability to quickly size up new people you meet. Are they a threat? A possible ally? A possible mate?

At work, is the new hire going to be friendly and someone you’d like to work with, or a threat who’s going to make constant trouble?

Did you know a man can decide if a woman is attractive to him in less than a second?

You’d think that assessing people who are TRYING to be friendly would be difficult. Are they sincere or just trying to sell you something to benefit themselves?

A car salesman is a perfect example. Does he come across as a carnival barker shouting all the benefits of this brand new car, and then pressure you into a confusing deal you can’t afford? Or does he take the time to relate to you as a person, find out what your needs are, and help you make the best decision?

Politicians are often compared to car salesmen. They pretend to care about you when they need your vote, but after they’re in office, unless you’re making a big donation, they send you a well-written form letter, or refer you to a junior member of their staff.

In a world where people are bombarded with new faces, all clamoring for attention, a quick assessment is essential. We don’t have an hour to get to know everyone we cross paths with. So we use every tool we have.

We don’t just listen to their words, we listen to the sound of their voice, their accent, the words they choose.

We don’t just look at their face, but their hair, their overall health, their clothing – does it match who they say they are? Is this someone who is just acting a part, or are they genuinely interested in helping me?

In a political campaign, the candidate’s focus is on himself. He is the most important person in the room. While others are speaking, he’s thinking about the speech he’s about to give. He wants to get every word right.

But to a woman in the audience, this guy is nothing special. He’s just one of fifteen candidates she’s going to listen to this evening. She has no idea who he is.

So when he gets up to speak, she probably isn’t even paying attention. She may be checking her phone for a message, or chatting with the person next to them about the last candidate, or about the cute guy in the third row.

As a candidate giving a speech, or creating a video or commercial, you need to realize that 95% of your audience has no idea who you are or what you stand for. They don’t care about you, they care about what YOU can do for THEM. They want to know that you understand their problems and have a plan for fixing them.

That first assessment can take just a few seconds. It’s essential that you make it as easy as possible for them to figure out who you are, so they can move on to listening to what you are saying. What office are you seeking? Do you look like someone who would look right holding that position?

If someone were running for sheriff, wouldn’t you be more comfortable if they were wearing a police or military type uniform? Would you be likely to support a gentle grandmother type for sheriff?

If you’re running for the House, you need to look the part. You don’t see news footage of a Representative on the floor of the House giving a speech on foreign affairs wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

The other tendency for a candidate is to overload his audience with too much information. He feels that if he just explains things in more and more detail then they’ll understand him better. But they’ve already made up 90% of their minds and the more you talk, the more they realize you don’t understand them at all.

They think, “What’s in it for me? Why should I support you over the other three guys who are asking for my vote? Why will you do better than they will? Do you understand what I want? Are you sincere or are you just another politician who’s in it for his own benefit? Can you actually do what you say, or are you just giving a speech?”

The same goes with websites. You need to make an excellent first impression instantly. People size up a candidate’s website subconsciously. Is it clear what’s going on? What is the candidate’s appearance? Is he someone I can relate to? Does he understand my problems and can he help me, or is he just another politician? Is he respectful of my time, or does he expect me to spend two hours reading through pages of documents trying to figure out what he really means?

Understanding the value of an excellent first impression, and knowing that voters need THEIR interests addressed, will help you get off to the best start possible.

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