How Do You Make Good First Impressions In A Zoom Meeting?

AUSTIN — You never get a second chance to make a good first impression, but how does one go about that in this rapidly evolving digital age? Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin are trying to help, offering insights and recommendations for navigating the digital workplace effectively.

First impressions in the business world are increasingly formed through virtual means, from email introductions to video conferences. Understanding how these virtual first impressions are made and how they can impact professional relationships is crucial.

The research, which reviewed 124 studies on virtual impressions, forms part of the broader exploration into the use of technology in work-based communication, with a specific focus on virtual interactions in the workplace. This comprehensive review, published in the Journal of Management, aims to guide individuals on how to present themselves positively in a digital context.

“Impressions can be really sticky. When you first meet someone, you form a variety of impressions: ‘How smart are they? They seem like a hard worker. They seem like someone you’re going to like. Are they a good leader or not?'” says study author Andrew Brodsky, an assistant management professor at Texas McCombs, in a media release. “Very often, these initial impressions can last for a long time and color how you view someone’s behavior later. If you have a negative first impression, you might see something they do later in a more negative light, because your brain works to confirm its preexisting thought.”

woman on zoom call in furnished room
First impressions in the business world are increasingly formed through virtual means, from email introductions to video conferences.  (Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions from Unsplash)

The research highlights the importance of understanding the formation and biases of first impressions for employers and employees. For employers, recognizing these biases can lead to more objective evaluations of performance, moving beyond subjective criteria like personal compatibility. It also offers a framework for training employees on improving their virtual interactions with clients and colleagues.

For employees, particularly those working remotely, virtual interactions might be the primary or only way to make an impression on their superiors.

“That impression you create, through how you communicate and what you communicate, becomes that much more important,” notes Brodsky.

This is increasingly relevant as virtual communication permeates all levels of the workforce, not just office environments.

An interesting aspect of virtual communication explored in the study is the use of emoticons and emojis. While they can enhance perceptions of warmth and likability, they may simultaneously detract from perceptions of intelligence and competence. This duality highlights the nuanced considerations individuals must make in their digital communications.

Response time to emails is another critical factor in virtual impression management. The study found that delayed responses could harm trust and competence perceptions. However, there’s a silver lining: people often overestimate the need for immediate replies. A balanced approach to response times, avoiding both immediate and excessively delayed replies, is recommended.

Contrary to some organizational beliefs that virtual interactions lack the richness of in-person exchanges, the study suggests that virtual interactions can be just as effective in forming strong impressions related to trust, competence, and likability.

“It’s not that virtual interactions are uniformly lacking as compared to in-person interactions, but, rather, that they are just different,” Brodsky concludes.

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  1. This article doesn’t offer a single suggestion for how to make a good impression in a Zoom meeting!

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