You might disagree with that line.  I’m ok with that, but hear me out.

As humans, we judge.  I’m not a psychologist, but I really believe that everyone on some level is constantly judging anyone they interact with.  If you don’t know someone and are talking with them, you are either consciously or subconsciously forming an opinion on that person.  Their hair might tell you how much attention they pay to themselves before leaving the house; a woman’s purse might suggest her love of labels; a man’s suit might reveal the difference between Account Executive and Chief Executive Officer.

You might not consider yourself a judgmental person, and that’s a good thing.  Just understand that on some level, you still form an opinion beginning with the minute you first meet someone.  Why do you think they say that you never get a second chance to make that first impression?

And why would you think your client would be any different towards you?

In my Audio Branding presentation for DropHouse, I talk a lot about using audio to bolster your image.  As DJs, we fight the stigma of being that caricature cheesy guy with the shiny lapel, flashy cummerbund, and “announcer voice.”  If you still wear those and sound that way, I’m surprised you’re even following me!  The private event industry has progressed light years, but your professionalism will always be their first question!  I’m not talking about how expensive your car is, how custom-tailored your suit might be, or whether you got those nice shoes at an outlet or at the premium shop.

It’s in how you handle yourself.  Attitude.  Courtesy.  Speech.  All of this adds up to your brand.  And your brand is synonymous with your image.  Perception really IS reality.

Still not on board?  What if you went to, what was supposed to be, a nice restaurant.  Your first contact is the hostess, who looks like she rolled out of bed 12 minutes ago, put on her black uniform, including the shirt  she’s worn 6 nights in a row (which incidentally is completely wrinkled because she crashed at her boyfriend’s place for the last 2 nights), she’s not even feigning enthusiasm at welcoming you, and says, “Hey guys.  Somebody puked and they’re cleaning it up now, so it’ll be a couple minutes.”  TMI!

Would you judge her a little bit?  Better yet, would you judge the restaurant?

Ok.  Would you be turned off if your waiter had body odor and looked like he hadn’t shaven in a few days?

What if you pulled up to a gas station and saw a guy who … wait.  Yeah, I don’t really care what he looks like either.

Ah!  But what if your tax accountant looked like the guy who pumped your gas this morning and this was your first  time meeting him?  Would you trust him?  Would you have full confidence in him?  Maybe you’d give him the chance, sit down and chat.  And maybe he’s not what he looks like, and you do trust him.  That’s cool.  But you were nervous.  Admit it.

If you’re sitting with a client for the first time, put your best foot forward.  Sure, be yourself!  But be your BEST self!

I take a lot pride when I set up for an event, too.  Everyone at the SCE Event Group does, and it’s gotten around.  It’s part of our reputation, and it’s helped brand us as who we are.  From the moment I walk into a catering venue, it’s all smiles and handshakes.  That tough Maitre D’?  Sure, they’ll get Mr. Niceguy, too.  Just don’t push it.

You judge your client.  Your client judges you.  The banquet manager judges you the moment you walk in.  You size up the Maitre D’s experience level.  And as soon as those guests walk in, you’re judging them to see what kind of night you’re about to have.

Image is everything.

I have to go shave now.

Tony Tee Neto