The Art of First and Second Impressions

Showing up ten minutes late to a class on first impressions is not a good look. Luckily I wasn’t the only tardy student who got lost in a maze of interchangeable west loop brick buildings. And thankfully, our instructor Wendy Widom, was not the drill sergeant type. None of us late folks were forced to drop and give her twenty. Though after the advice she dispensed in her class, Brand U: The Art of First and Second Impressions, I would have gladly done laps in repayment.

The class was very hands on and, with only five other students in the class, our three hours together felt more like a private consultation. From the class I was hoping to learn how to be more self-aware when meeting strangers, how to communicate what I do and what my goals are, how to make small talk purposeful. We were able to work on each of these through practice presentations, elevator pitches, a mock networking scenario, and lots and lots of tailored feedback from our people-person guru, Wendy.

How do you come across to others? Find out in Wendy's Brand U class.

One of my biggest revelations to date was in the feedback Wendy gave me following my presentation to the group. In the past I’ve been told that I bring a lower energy, but I never realized how this could be hurting my pitch. After I sat back down, Wendy told me I sounded apologetic instead of persuasive. It was as if I didn’t believe my cause, getting donors to give to Zealous Good, was worth anyone’s time.

This is not how I feel. I am so passionate about the service we provide and the lives we’re helping. I just didn’t know how to pump up the volume and raise the roof (note: Wendy advised no one to actually “raise the roof.”)

So we all talked about it. Not surprisingly the four women in the group had a harder time owning their awesomeness than the men. But Wendy reminded us, be proud. If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, no one else will. It’s really as simple as that. And so we continued to work on our pitch using more definitive language, strong eye contact, and making sure our words matched our physical stance.

If you’re looking for some tough, critical feedback on your communication skills go take Wendy’s next class. An effective pitch can help you raise funds, gain donors, land jobs and open up a world of other opportunities.

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