Saturday September 24th 2022

Brand Yourself Better

First impressions count

How to make that first impression count

IT takes just seven seconds to make either a positive or negative first impression on someone. That’s precious little time to clinch a job or score a hot date – so what’s the best way to get ahead of the pack?

While most of us make the effort to wash our hair, dress well and smile intelligently, there’s much more that we can do to take our image from “presentable” to “wow” in a few, relatively easy, steps.

“In this instant world of high expectations, making a powerful first impression is a crucial skill in establishing our presence,” says personal brand strategist Haydee Antezana, founder of development consultancy, Professional Impressions.

Racing the rat race

We live in such a fast-paced world, ruled by internet, cell phones, laptops and DVDs, that we rely heavily on the impressions we make to tell others of our level of competence, reliability and intelligence, says Antezana, who represents South Africa on the American-based Professional Women Network board of advisors.

“We are a walking CV and have to make the impressions we portray work for us, not against us. If you don’t believe the messenger, you’re not going to believe the message!

“Right now, you may be just Thuli from the admin department. Wouldn’t you rather be Thuli, that ‘really well-groomed girl on the third floor who is efficient, helpful and an absolute gem’?”

Image experts rate being able to “make a mark” as key to delivering a powerful impression and leaving a lasting, positive image.

Pay attention to your three Vs, says Antezana.

  • Visual. A total of 55% of that first impression is influenced by your appearance and body language (gestures and facial expressions such as smiling and eye contact)
  • Vocal. How are you heard? The tone, volume and pitch of your voice counts for 38% of someone’s judgement of you
  • Verbal. What do you say? The words you speak influence only seven per cent of the total package.

Your “believability” factor depends on the consistency of these three aspects of communication, and how well you interlink them.

Small changes, big results

The trick to creating a powerful and lasting brand is to start with a few changes and watch, delightedly, the feedback you receive, says Antezana.

  • Look the part. If you look good, you’ll feel fantastic and exude self-confidence
  • Stand tall and sit up straight. Voila! Instant authority and confidence
  • Smile. It’s a universal language
  • Accentuate good qualities (physical and emotional) and downplay negative ones.

Learning to brand yourself means giving others the message you want them to receive. Our lives are governed by brands – from the car we drive, to the coffee we drink. Remember, people “buy” you just as they choose any other product!

“Your success depends on how well you’re able to brand yourself,” say Antezana. “You can’t say you’re a fun-loving girl, but want to be taken seriously in business, when you’re wearing a lacy camisole, tartan mini skirt and stilettos, while holding a cell phone with a Barbie cover.”

Brand yourself better

When you’re promoting, marketing and selling yourself, remember the following key factors, says Haydee Antezana, personal brand strategist


  • Find yourself a mentor – someone to learn from or aspire to be like
  • In all that you say, do or show, demonstrate consistency in the message you want to put forward to others.


  • Make sure you make yourself memorable in the minds of others
  • For example, are you keen to be seen as accurate and detail-oriented? Then request jobs or projects that demand these skills. How about warm and empathetic? Nurture relationships and others will be drawn to you. Perhaps you want to be an articulate person? Then go on a presentation course.

Creating (and keeping) a great first impression

It’s all about attitude, baby. The way you see things mentally has a huge influence on your outer image. So, no matter how gorgeous your hair, smile, outfit and posture, if you’re not fired up positively inside, it won’t show on the outside.

When you get up in the morning, take charge! Welcome the morning and its challenges.

Be aware of your attitude “talk and walk”, cautions Antezana. They way you walk, talk and act are all carried out in one of three ways : negatively, positively or indifferently.

Also, focus on what you want, instead of what you want to avoid! So, instead of saying : “I mustn’t be late!’, rather say, “I am going to be on time.

Vamp up your visual image

“Clothes speak volumes about our status, personality, character and where we want to go in life,” explains Antezana. Investing in your visual image is a vital step in creating what you want people to perceive.

Your image is not about beauty, age, size, wealth or fashion – it’s about knowing and respecting yourself for who you are and having the confidence to discover and project your unique style consistently and confidently.

  • Start now. Don’t waste time waiting until you’re thin or have more money.
  • Time yourself. Read up about the right colours and shapes for you and have a consultation with an image stylist in order to de-clutter your wardrobe by a set date.
  • Tick off as you go along, in order to remind yourself of your goals.

How should you choose your clothes? Use the three A’s of the ideal garment to guide you.

  • Does it make you feel ASSURED? Are you comfortable and confident in it? Is it you?
  • Is it APPROPRIATE? Antezana advices always dressing up a level, rather than down, as you can always pretend you have to go to a more formal occasion afterwards, if need be! Make sure that you can perform your required tasks while wearing the outfit.
  • Is it ATTRACTIVE? The best-dressed people aren’t the thinnest or wealthiest – they’ve simply learned the art of camouflage. Dress for your body shape, ask friends to appraise your style or, better yet, go for an image consultation.

Absolute no-no’s!

When choosing what to wear, avoid, like the plague, the following :

  • Bad fit-too tight or too baggy
  • Visible underwear
  • Shoes lighter than hemline
  • Frayed , creased clothing
  • Cheap looking fabric
  • Too frilly, flouncy, floral
  • Clingy or see through garments

Mind your manners

Etiquette is simply about respect, understanding, tolerance and good manners. We may think that we know all of this, but having a bad day or feeling blue can easily overshadow your impression when meeting someone for the first time.

The golden rule, says Antezana, is to treat everybody with the same consideration you’d like for yourself.

Become aware of cultural differences too. Take your cue from the person you are interacting with. Some people view avoidance of eye contact as disrespectful and suspicious, while others believe it is a sign of respect. Chat to friends from different races and cultures to gain clarity on what is expected, especially if you’re preparing for a job interview or important meeting.

Body shots

Understanding non-verbal communication gives you an instant edge, wherever you are. Use the art of body language to boost your image and influence your chances of success.

Generally, remember to walk tall and briskly, keep your palms open and tilt your head slightly when someone is talking to you. Nod regularly to convey that you understand what someone else is saying and don’t forget to smile!

Crush bad habits such as standing with your hands on your hips or in your pockets, chewing gum, crossing your arms while chatting or tapping and drumming your fingers.

Investing in a powerful impression is about more than dressing to impress. Projecting the right message not only has a positive effect on the people around you, but nurtures the winner within.

Haydee Antezana, founder of Professional Impressions, providing personal branding strategies to top companies, individuals and Miss South Africa contestants.
Tel: (011) 469 1396
Fax: 0866 140 205
e-mail: e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
PO Box 651296
South Africa