Business development · 17 July 2017

Britain’s professionals are losing the art of making a first impression

job interview
Small shifts in physicality and voice can be the difference when making a first impression

Making a first impression in a small business is a rare skill, according to new research, which has revealed how blissfully unaware most people are of how little impact they’re making in the workplace.

Less than a quarter of UK professionals said they often come into contact with people at work who leave them with a lasting first impression, while as many as 78 per cent said they rarely meet anyone who makes a strong impact on them.

Despite these statistics, the new research, conducted by Rada in Business – the corporate communication training arm of the renowned British drama school – found that some 71 per cent of workers are wrong in their belief that they regularly leave their desired mark when meeting others and making a first impression.

In addition, almost half of UK professionals believe their communication style wields the necessary influence in the workplace either “always” or “most of the time” – an assumption the research has suggested is rarely true.

Tutor and client director at Rada in Business, Charlie Walker-Wise, advised those small business workers looking at making a first impression in their professional lives to use some basic acting techniques to improve their communication skills.

He said: “Using your peripheral vision is crucial when entering a new space, so that you can absorb the atmosphere of the room you’re walking into and see everyone in it. It allows you to gauge the physical environment and emotional climate.

“By making positive physical and vocal choices your audience can see that you’re available to them and engaged, whether it’s an interview panel of two people, or in front of hundreds of people.”

The study demonstrated that making a first impression – a skill that is often vital to the success of small businesses and their owners – is generally a lot harder than most of us think.

Walker-Wise added that becoming more self-aware would improve the success rate for many workers looking making a first impression on colleagues and clients that’s better and longer lasting.

He added: “Flex your communication style according to the situation and make the first impression required. It’s amazing how small shifts in how you use your physicality and voice can affect your audience.”

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.