stop-signI was working with a CEO on media and speaker training this month. He did two things that we all do—and need to stop, because they turn off the people we want to reach.

“You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

Research indicates people form an impression of you based on how your face looks within 1/10th of a second. They’ll complete filling in the blanks on who they believe you are (right and wrong) within seven seconds.

When you’re dealing with the media — or a potential client or employer — the stakes can feel especially high. And that’s when we can make two big mistakes.

#1: We Try Too Hard to “Get It Right”

At bottom, most of us focus more on the parts of us that we believe aren’t good enough. (Just watch yourself on video — as the CEO did.)

So we soothe ourselves by trying to be the “right” person. We micromanage our hand gestures. We memorize what we want to say. We may even try imitating people we think have it all.

Two bad things happen. First, we come off as fake (which people probably notice in that first seven seconds.) Second, if we are successful, we don’t celebrate this — since it only happened because we “fooled” everyone.

#2: We Succumb to Corporate Speak

I remember learning about propaganda in a high school civics class. One term still sticks with me: “glittering generalities.” These are shiny verbal objects that sound good but mean nothing or — even worse — are there to mask something unpleasant.

Think “robust” or “scalable solution.” “Giving 110%.” “Empowering employees.” The CEO answered a question by using “synergistic acquisitions.” (He won’t do that again!)

When you say these things, you sound like an institution and not a person. And no one wants to listen.

You Need to Be You 

OK: we all have things we can improve on. When speaking, I have a tendency to lean on “so” to connect one thought to the next — when there are plenty of other transition words available if I just pay attention.

When you’re trying to make those first — or continuing — good impressions, go for being the best version of yourself.

Stop overthinking what you’re doing. That will give you the energy to 1) pay attention to those around you (which will make you less nervous), and 2) be conversational rather than using jargon or $64,000 words.

People want to connect with other people. Make it easy for them to connect with you.