You have just 30 seconds!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Within 30 seconds of seeing a person for the first time you have almost instantly assessed that individual's:

*Educational level
*Career competence and success
*Level of sophistication
*Sense of humor
*Social heritage

Social psychologists tell us that we are quick to make judgment of someone or someplace based almost totally on appearance. They have determined that is how long it takes for you to form that laundry list of impressions about personal character and abilities. We make up our minds in the first 30 seconds. Once you have formed that "first impression" it takes a considerable amount of time and effort for you to change your opinion.

In a perfect world what you just did in forming that first impression is not fair, moral or just. What's inside a person or community should count for a great deal more. Eventually it does, but not right away. In the meantime, a great deal of opportunities can be lost.

Thirty seconds doesn't give you time to pull out your college transcript, showcase your resume, or present character references. In the case of a community, there's little time to show the quality of your sewer and water services, define the character and quality of your work force, share your plans for the future or show the "inside" of your community.

When you see a community or place for the first time the list is equally long. In those first 30 seconds you assess a community's:

*Cultural vitality
*Sense of order and political commitment
*Community sophistication
*Quality of residents
*Sense of community pride
*Comfort level and community warmth
*Respect for one another
*Sense of identity and place
*Work ethic

In 30 seconds we form those opinions of communities and places we travel, based almost entirely on what we see -- a visual image! Good impressions are based on well-planned communities, clean and litter-free downtowns, appealing signage, attractive and well-maintained buildings, repaired fences, absence of any public nuisances, landscape features and beautification programs that you can see, attractive entryways that invite, presence of public art, well-maintained public properties that set an example, clean public vehicles, no weeds and attractive lighting.

Take the test -- have someone who has never been to your community make a visit. Have them give you their "30-second" first impression. Validate it with others that may be visiting the community for the first time.

Quick impressions can be lasting ones. Psychologists call it the "halo effect." When your visual message is positive, you will tend to assume that the other "inside" aspects about you or the community are equally positive. Unfortunately, if your visual image is negative, it transfers to everything else. That person seeing you or the community may not spend the time and effort to discover the "inside information" that makes you or your community special.

Make sure that your community can pass the "30-second test" -- it can mean the difference in the future of your community.