It’s hard to believe this is true, but we are already less than 8 weeks away from the next Academy Summit! While it may feel like we just wrapped up the details of the last event, we’re already feverishly working on the next.
Fun fact, which you probably already know about yours truly: I’m a planner. As are all of my Academy cohorts. So, it’s not unusual that I have already pulled my suits and heels out of the closet to do an inspection well in advance of our Fall Summit to make sure I look the part. On one such recent visit to the back of the closet, I was thinking about the importance of the first impression we make at our Academy Summits. The same first impression, by the way, that you make with your clients and prospective clients every day.
Here’s the deal. While I love the casual work environment we are generally afforded here at the Academy, and I’m all for makeup-free days and trying new crazy nail colors, there are two specific times per year when it matters most what the first impression of the Academy team says about us. So, it’s important to our team that we pay close attention to the details and show up with our best foot forward at our Summit events.
I’ve heard from many fellow working-class friends and colleagues that, “it shouldn’t matter if my makeup is done. Makeup doesn’t affect how I do my job.” And for the most part, I agree! However, when it comes to an event where you are meeting clients or prospective clients, an interview, or conducting an important meeting, the first impression you make sticks with people. Why give yourself an uphill battle? Give the yoga pants a day off, pull on some appropriate-length, color, size, and fit slacks, and let your clients, prospects, interviewers, or attendees be wowed by your message, presence, and expertise rather than distracted by your hair. Or nails. Or clothes. Or makeup.
Check out these 8 tips on some of the details people really do notice about you – and which influence their first impression of you – and how you can address them ahead of time so they don’t serve as a distraction, no matter the setting.
- Your Pants… And Your Sleeves
Sure, it would be great if you could wear the same pair of dress pants with heels on day one, and flats on day two. Unfortunately, that’s not how this cookie crumbles. Prepare ahead of time. Decide which type of shoes you’ll wear with which pants and have them tailored accordingly. Not safety pins. Or tape. Or some sort of boy scout – worthy pant roll. Hem those bad boys.
The length of your sleeves could also prompt a trip to the trusty tailor. While it may not seem like an inch or two of extra fabric matters, sleeves that are too long (or too short) can make you look frumpy and unpolished. If you have to swing your arm around to hike up your sleeve before shaking someone’s hand, throw that blazer in the bag for the tailor, as well.
Whether on your top or on your bottom, gaping or stress-tested buttons are not your friend. On women and men alike, button-up shirts tend to gape at the chest, even if they fit perfectly everywhere else. Since the perfect fitting button-up is out there with the unicorns, you’re safe to get away with a piece of well-placed fashion tape for this one.
When it comes to pants, however, if you struggle with getting them buttoned, add those to the bag for the tailor as well. If it’s just a matter of moving the button an inch or two, that’s a quick fix. But if the problem is pants that are simply too tight or too baggy, a new pair of pants is probably in order.
If your go-to pair of shoes – whether they are heels, loafers, flats, or wedges – are scuffed up or worn out, people will notice. Leather shoes should be conditioned and shined. Don’t hesitate to take your beloved heels to a cobbler for a refresh. I get it – once you find the perfect pair, you don’t want to give up on them. I have several pair of heels that have spent more time lately at the cobbler than on my feet, but it’s worth it to make sure people are focusing on you rather than your feet.
Fellas, this one is mostly for you. If you’re wearing a pair of pants with belt loops and a tucked-in shirt, grab the belt. It’s a necessary detail that makes you look pulled together and crisp.
On the flip side, if you want to wear a belt as an accessory with a skirt or pants that don’t have belt loops, be sure it fits appropriately and you are able to secure it so it doesn’t move around and become a distraction.
5. Speaking of Accessories…
Accessories can make or break you. While they can be a thoughtful way to finish off your look, you also don’t want them to make too much of a statement. As a general rule, stick with simple accessories rather than going out on a limb with a “statement” piece that might just say the wrong thing.
6. Your Hands
You use your hands a lot. To shake hands, gesture (especially if you’re a hand talker, like me), hand out documents, and shift through files. Make sure when people see your hands they aren’t distracted. Dirty hands and nails, torn cuticles, chipped polish – these are the things nightmares are made of. Ok, perhaps that’s a bit strong, but it’s definitely something people will notice and stay latched on to. Now, instead of hearing about all the ways your firm takes care of your clients, they’re hearing “On the weekends I like to dig in my garden and get my hands dirty, but I’m not the best at getting the dirt out from under my nails!”
Nail biters, I see you. Two options here. First, make a commitment to stop that habit (pro tip: drink water in place of biting your nails. It’s just a nervous tick/habit that you can replace over time!). Second, you ladies out there can get some natural looking false nails or getting regular manicures will often help you resist the urge to bite them.
7. Your Hair
If you’re trying to make a great first impression, you certainly don’t want it to look like you woke up late and rolled out of bed right into this meeting. If your hair is wet, wild, unruly, or noticeably dirty, that’s the impression you’re making. While you may think your hair goes mostly unnoticed, it can make even the best tailored suit look out of place and unkempt.
8. And All the Rest
Before you head out, check the final few details. Take those extra hair ties off your wrist for now, make sure your perfume doesn’t precede you before you even enter the room, check that your teeth are lunch and lipstick free. Put on a smile and go knock their socks off!
Practice Building Consultant
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128