First Impressions Matter by Ross McLee

Would you buy a car from this guy?…

Illustrations by Phill Burrows www.phillburrows.co.uk

It’s true – first impressions are important.  In fact they are vital.

It is amazing to think that business owners still operate from locations that are in desperate need of attention if they are to convince people to buy from them. The shop front is the selling point. It tells everyone passing by everything about you and your business, what you know, how professional you are and what level of service quality you can expect from your business.

In these cases – those passing by, will do just that. So it still amazes me when I come across this sort of thing in my professional life as an AV Consultant.

I remember passing through an architect’s studio on my way to a client meeting. Looking around me there were lots of people busy on their computers, lots of drawings on screens and big A0’s pinned to the walls, and lots of 3D models of the latest project buildings built and encased in Perspex. This truly is a hub of modern architectural creativity – I thought to myself.

Would I have thought the same if there were a handful of ‘old school’ draftsman’s easels, pens, pencils and the odd set square on display? Probably not.

So it was with some surprise and bemusement that when I was ushered through to the main meeting room I was presented with a minimalist’s dream – a table, some chairs and a TV hung on a wall.

Some might say “well what did you expect?”

As the meeting began, it became very apparent that the room didn’t necessarily present best practice (no pun intended). The first few minutes of the meeting were spent collating various printed drawings from the studio next door.

Another five minutes passed as we all explored the various floor boxes for power and some means of connecting our laptops to the screen. A few of us needed to charge our phones and laptops (it had been a busy day already!)

I had a PowerPoint presentation prepared, to talk through some of our design ideas.  I’m glad I brought my extra-long HDMI cable with me: the cable was missing.

As it transpired there were a few people unable to attend in person so a mobile phone was duly placed, table centre, on speakerphone. Does this sound familiar?

The meeting started and things were going reasonably well until….

It became very clear that the display screen was too small for everyone around the table to see the details of the drawings we were discussing (the paper handouts I brought as backup came in handy).

Of course the consultants and client representatives on the phone could barely hear what was being said, caused by poor acoustics in the room and the “poor man’s” approach to audio conferencing that was a mobile phone on speakerphone. They had no means of seeing the drawings we were discussing so were ‘in the dark’ most of the time.

It was a terrible meeting and for many a complete waste of time.

The irony was that we were discussing the client’s new office meeting rooms, the room design and the technology that needed to go in them to fulfil their business requirements. Instead of being in a room that demonstrated all that is good about a well-designed room, hosted by experienced designers. It represented everything that it shouldn’t be. I resisted the temptation to use the room we were in as an example of poor design (this was of course an architectural practice of high standing).

Even without me pointing out the obvious failures of the room that had now become very apparent, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that the client might have had second thoughts about their choice of appointed designer.

That was just one meeting room in hundreds that I’ve been in and many (dare I say most) fail to meet some of even the most basic requirements.

There is a lot to be said about first impressions.

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