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According to my sources, today, 8 May (the second Wednesday in May), is Receptionists Day. Everyone knows Bosses Day and Secretaries Day, but I have to say the lesser known Receptionists Day is perhaps the most important of the office worker days. The receptionist is, after all, the person who very often represents the first line of human interaction between a company and its clients. Whether by telephone or in person, it is the attitude, presentation and tone of voice of the receptionist that is the first thing a client experiences.

And as we all know, there’s only one chance to make a first impression, making the role of the customer-facing receptionist even more pivotal.

It is not only new clients who deal with the receptionist first. Existing customers, staff, VIPs – all these people are likely to pass the receptionist as they interact with a company.

Whether in person or by phone, the receptionist represents the first line of interaction with clients. (© All Rights Reserved)

Whether in person or by phone, the receptionist represents the first line of interaction with clients.
(© All Rights Reserved)

So, what are the secrets to a good first impression? The science of perception, if you will. According to Business Insider Australia, there are a number of key techniques that have stood the test of time. These aren’t rocket science, but are probably worth mentioning again quickly, so here goes:

  1. Dress for success. Unless you’re operating in a particularly creative space, opt for something not too loud – rather err towards neat, classic and conservative. You want to be remembered for you, not your outfit.
  2. Choose your words with care. Words are loaded; think about how you want to come across (confident? humble? innovative?), and favour words that enforce that.
  3. Strike the right tone. Keep it calm but enthusiastic.
  4. Be aware of your body language – how you sit, stand, etc. A confident smile and positive eye contact can do wonders.
  5. Use the name of the person you’re dealing with. Everyone like’s to be made to feel special and be singled out, and they will respond positively.
  6. Be on time. ‘Nuff said.
  7. Focus on the other person. Avoid talking too much about yourself (but don’t overdo it – you don’t want to appear pathetic or secretive).
  8. Be a good listener. Getting the other person to talk is not enough – you actually need to listen, comprehend, react and remember.
  9. Be careful with humour. While being too serious may not be good, jokes are risky, as different people’s sense of humour can be very different. Humour is also culturally specific and can easily be taken the wrong way.
  10. Do your research. Don’t go into an interaction unprepared; with all the social media tools available these days, there’s no excuse for not knowing a little about the person you are about to meet. (Obviously this does not apply to a cold call or unanticipated meeting.)
  11. Relax and be yourself. While it’s important to choose your words with care, be aware of your body language etc, don’t over think the situation. Sometimes coming across as too tense and calculated can be worse than accidentally saying/doing the wrong thing.

While I got to the above list in the context of Receptionists Day, it obviously applies much wider – whether you’re interviewing for a job, meeting a client, or going on a date, making a good first impression is key.

So, enjoy the day, appreciate the receptionists you meet, and remember those first impressions!

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