3 Simple Tips for Making a Killer First Impression

As a photographer in Nashville (a.k.a. Music City), I’ve photographed enough musicians to be able to tell which ones are working a day job and which ones are doing music full-time within the first 5 minutes of our conversation. No joke.

A few months ago, I sat down with a musician for our pre-photoshoot planning session and asked him about his music and what type of photographs he wanted. Without hesitation, he began relaying what type of music he played, who he sounded like, who his target audience was, the brand he had created for himself and had a whole folder on his computer of other musician’s photos to show me for reference.

1st-impressionWithin seconds flat I knew that he worked for himself full-time. I didn’t have to ask if we had to plan the photoshoot around his day job—I just knew that this guy was serious about the music business. He had an entrepreneurial mindset. He knew his brand. He knew his audience. And he made a killer first impression.

On the other hand, I ran into another musician a few weeks ago and asked him about his music. “What type of music do you play?” I asked.

He said, “Well, really all types. Some of my songs are more country, some are pop and others are electronica. Each song is really different…it’s really hard to describe.”

As we chatted, it was clear within 5 minutes that this guy (1) had no idea how to present himself and his music (i.e. his business) to other people, (2) obviously worked a day job. Unfortunately, this is pretty typical for musicians AND for small business owners that I run into–they have no idea how to leave people with a lasting impression of what they do.

Now, let me be clear that there is nothing wrong with working a day job as you are getting your side business ramped up. So, it’s not the fact that the second guy worked a day job, it’s that it was obvious through the way he presented himself that he didn’t have the same dedication and focus that the first guy had. He wanted to share his passion with other people, but didn’t know how to tell anyone about it. He wanted you to listen to his songs, but he didn’t have a business card or a website to help get you to them. He wanted to be memorable, but he couldn’t describe anything about his music that was worth remembering.

My point is that you should always present your business to other people like you’re a dedicated, full-time business owner—whether you are or not. You need to speak about your business in a way that makes you an authority. You need to describe your product or services with clarity. You need to know your target market and stop trying to appeal to everyone under the sun.

In returned, people will take you more seriously. They are more likely to buy your product or use your service. Chances are higher that they will tell other people about you. And if nothing else, you will at least make a lasting, professional impression with everyone you meet.

So how do you make sure that you are professionally representing your company and your brand? Here are 3 simple things you MUST DO to make an impact, stand out from the noise and present yourself in a way that leaves people wanting more…

#1:  Create an awesome elevator speech

An elevator speech is a 30-sec (interesting) description of you, your company and who you work with. For my photography, my elevator speech goes something like this:

“I’m a photographer and I work with musicians, entrepreneurs and other creative people who want to brand themselves through their photographs and tell their story through their imagery.”

Notice that I don’t say something like this:

“I’m a photographer. I like to photograph musicians, families, events, weddings…really anyone who needs photos. I kind of do a little bit of everything.”

You get the idea that elevator speech #2 is all over the map. The person you’re speaking to is left without a clue what you really do and who you actually work with. The result is that your business is forgotten the minute you walk away.

If you don’t already have an elevator speech for your business written out AND memorized, it’s time to create one. To write one, answer the following questions:

  • What do I do?
  • Who do I work with? Or—What is my product?
  • What is the result a client/customer gets from my business?


Take the answers to all of these questions and formulate an interesting and concise elevator speech. See if you can construct it in a way that builds in curiosity and a desire for someone to learn more.

If it helps—instead of thinking of this like a run-of-the-mill elevator speech, trying thinking of it like the “Tweet” version of what you do. Basically, what could you say in ~140 characters that would make someone want to follow you?

Once you’ve written your speech, memorize it and practice it every time you get the question, “What do you do?”

#2: Always have your business card handy

Nothing bothers me more than asking a business owner for their card at a networking or social event (so that I can follow up with them) and they have to dig through their purse or wallet to find one. Then you get the very last card they have with the worn edges and they explain to you that their phone number, website and company name have all changed, but that the email address is still good.

I’m thinking, Reeeeallly?

In addition, there are two other group of unprepared people—(1) those who have NO business card, and (2) those who talk to you about their small business all evening and then hand you a card that has the contact information for their day job.

If you eventually want to quit your day job and work for yourself full-time, you have to start practicing the habits of a professional entrepreneur. That means:

  1. You have to have a professional business card for your business (not your day job) with your current information on it
  2. You have to have multiple copies of your card with you at all times
  3. You have to have your business card handy (not stuffed down in your wallet somewhere) when you’re in a situation where someone might ask for it


These 3 things sound so simple, but yet they are critical and many times overlooked. Don’t be the person fumbling around for your outdated business card. No one will take you seriously. Business cards are so cheap and easy to get these days, so if you better make sure you have one.

#3: Give away something for free

After you meet someone and discuss your business, the next step is to follow up with them. This is important if you want to create a lasting professional relationship. Within the next 2 days, send them an email that says it was nice to meet them and that you’d like to stay in touch.

In addition to this, you want to go the extra mile and give them something for free. If you talked about your music to them, send them a link to access a few free songs. If you mentioned your business services or products, send them a free sample or a free ebook. Or maybe you know of an article, resource or link that they would be interested in—well then, send it along.

Sharing something for free (as long as it is relevant and useful to someone else) is a practice that will make a lasting impression and help you build strong relationships.

What I like to do is put a call-to-action on my business card that encourages them to learn more about my business. Something like, “Download my free ebook…” can be an effective way to get people over to your site.

In the end, if you want to make great connections with people, be taken seriously and take your business to the next level, follow these 3 simple steps and also start paying attention to what full-time business owners are doing. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel, just watch what’s working for other successful entrepreneurs and mimic it.

Sharing makes you awesome!
Nick Loper - 5 years ago

Interested idea about the call-to-action on the business card. Haven’t seen that before!

    Laurel Staples - 5 years ago

    Thanks Nick! Yes, I do this on my GFY cards to give people an incentive to go to my site (if on the slight chance that merely meeting me wasn’t reason enough to full engage online…haha). 🙂

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