Don't try so hard to be impressive

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When you need to Impress…

If you are in a situation where you need to be impressive, a job interview, a sales call, a negotiation, a presentation — one of the worst things you can do is to try, on purpose to be impressive.

When you think about trying to be impressive you immediately put yourself in a defensive mode, and you immediately put yourself in mode that is not-authentic.
Trying to be impressive makes you behave in a way that you are “trying” vs. “being”.

You are always better off starting from an authentic place because you are never actually more impressive when you are trying to be impressive!

Think Useful vs. Impressive

At one point I learned to stop being afraid of not being good enough, and to just give up on ever trying to be impressive on purpose. Instead I focused on trying to be genuinely useful.

The first step in actually impressing someone is to give them something useful or valuable. The value is what creates the impression. So before you walk into the siutation, put some thought into what the person or audience will truly value and prepare to deliver that.

Think “Helping a Friend”

When you prepare for a communication of any kind, if you think about being impressive, it will weigh on your nerves. Your heart rate goes up, your voice gets higher and your whole demeanor betrays, “I’m really not confident but I’m trying to impress you!”

I needed to figure out a way to manage my nerves. The way I ultimately solved this problem was instead of trying to be impressive, I would get myself in the mindset of:

“What would I be saying and doing if I were trying to help my best friend?”

Instead of thinking of positioning and selling and marketing and convincing, I would think, “What would I say if this executive, client, hiring manager or prospect sitting across the table from me was actually my best friend?”

More comfortable, more useful

First and foremost I would be much more comfortable and less nervous. I would be thinking, hello friend…1. How are you? I’m actually interested. What’s important to you? And 2. How can I help?

And if what I have to present is not genuinely interesting or helpful to them, then I wouldn’t drag them through my presentation! I wouldn’t do that to my best friend. I’d talk about whatever would actually help them.

This doesn’t mean you cannot have the intention to persuade or to sell, it just means you’ll actually do a better job persuading and selling because you put yourself in the mode of genuinely trying to be helpful!

I can tell you that I’ve spent 52 minutes of a 1 hour meeting discussing their problems with teen-agers, their boss, a challenging project or colleague…and in that conversation have found an authentic hook to offer something of value to get to the next meeting or the next step in the last 8 minutes. And I can tell you that this was a much more successful outcome than I would have achieved if I had tried to be impressive with my presentation starting in minute 1.

Drop the Business Speak

Another hazard of trying too hard to be impressive is focusing on sounding smart instead of focusing on really communicating.

I tend see these big-word, business-speak, smart-sounding people coming across as arrogant and contrived — which, by the way is also not impressive. It puts people off. And it’s not the way you would talk to your best friend.

It always amazes me how some people actively insist that talking in big words will make others think they are more impressive. It doesn’t work. Because clarity is more useful than simply sounding smart.

Never confuse being clear for not being smart.

Start with what is true for you

We all have situations that make us nervous where we need to make a good impression.

The good news is you have the secret formula already — Be yourself. You will never be more credible than when you are being authentic.

When you get scared, find something that is true for you. When you do this it has wonderful way of increasing your confidence and settling your nerves. I am always the most nervous when I am pushed to do or talk about something where I have not yet found the base thing that is true for me. That’s where I start.

Identify something that you truly care about or that you are genuinely enthusiastic about, and then start your preparation or presentation from there.

You’ll be so much more impressive!

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About Patty
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.


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You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

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