First Impressions

The new NFL Commissioner was elected, and lauded in the print media. But the news clip I saw of him told another story.

How important is first impression? Extremely! It is thin slicing perhaps, but hard to dislodge what we think and feel about someone upon first seeing and hearing them.

Take the case of Roger Goodell, just yesterday voted in as only the 5th NFL Commissioner in 60 years. I saw this news clip last night, and literally thought, “Wow, he’s not going to be able to fill the shoes of the legends that preceded him.” (Bert Bell, Pete Rozell, and even Paul Tagliabue.) Then I read the morning paper and hear him praised to the sky – “strong communicator, comes up with solutions, energetic, approachable and friendly, etc.”

Is this the same guy I saw last night? I checked the internet stories and sure enough, very favorable. That’s not what I saw, heard and felt.

Take a look at the clip and see what you think.

He speaks a bit, then when Paul hands Roger the football he doesn’t know what to do with it (and what a great time to symbolically grasp it firmly and raise it to the ceiling.) Then he speaksa again and there are literally 9 ums and uhs in 34 seconds of statement, he speaks with a soft and tentative voice, and he looks serious, subdued with eyes often cast down. He does use the Rule of Three, but not very forcefully. All in all not much of another legend in the making.

Now I actually believe the write-ups, and Goodell probably is a great guy, and will do very well. But I don’t “feel” that after seeing him in action. And I’m not alone for that news clip was his moment to shine, and is imbedded in the hearts and minds of the millions of viewers who saw him but will not read the papers. And if they saw him AND also read the papers, the visual and sound impression are about 100 times more powerful!

How important is a vivid impression? Ask Mark McGwire, all star baseball player who came off as deceptive and obfuscatory in the congressional hearings on steroids last year. That is the memory in most people’s minds – and as this sports writer Bruce Jenkins said in an opinion piece on Monday: “I was as disgusted as anyone by McGwire’s ludicrous display, but I don’t see how “public speaking under pressure” becomes a category as important as “583 homeruns.”

But performance under pressure IS critical in how people judge you, and that is the time that you want to shine. And that’s why, as Guy says in the previous post, “practice and speak all the time.” Then you will be able to perform when it counts.

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