Imagine you’re at a networking event and you’re introduced to somebody you’ve never met before. You smile and say hello, stretch out your arm to shake hands … they look you in the eye, you shake hands firmly and you’ve both made a good first impression. The opposite’s true too, of course. The stranger who avoids your gaze and whose handshake is like grasping the proverbial dead fish. Be honest. You’re disappointed aren’t you? And it’s hard to claw things back from a poor start like that.

We all know how much first impressions matter. That’s why I am constantly emphasising the importance of a great profile picture (in fact, a great profile, full stop). Because it’s doing that job of making a first impression for you twenty four hours a day, every day. So it’s worth making sure that it’s sending out the right message.

A statistic that I keep hearing, and keep quoting, is “7%-38%-55%”, from Albert Behrabian’s findings on the relative importance of verbal and non-verbal communication.  In case you’re unaware of his findings, apparently we receive only 7% of our information verbally.  The vast bulk of information that we take in and process is through non-verbal means: tone of voice, body language and so on.  55% of the information that we take in is visually.  Which helps explain why, if we’re looking at a web page, or leafing through a book, it’s the pictures that grab our attention first.  It’s simply the way our brains are wired.

I’m doing a lot of work on Linkedin profiles at the moment (details of that to follow in a future blog), but the importance of that profile picture can’t be emphasised enough.  It sits there, 24 hours a day, representing you to the world.  And, whether it’s fair or not, people will form opinions of you based upon what they see.  So it’s important that the photo conveys you in the way you want to be seen.  Going back to my comparison with meeting somebody for the first time, I’d say that the most important element is your eyes; because yes, the are the ‘window to the soul’.  Or rather, they reveal what we’re really thinking.  If somebody is faking a smile, looking into their eyes will show that insincerity.  To recognise a genuine smile, don’t look at the lips – look at the eyes.  It’s there you’ll see the warmth, humour, or whatever it is you’re looking for.

profile pictures for business

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