Making an Impression
In one of the college communications classes I teach, we discuss first impressions. These impressions are important, but they are seldom an accurate representation of who you really are. After all, many of us try to “put on the dog” to impress people.
I should know, because I have done that and had a revelation: it doesn’t work.
A few years ago I was at the “Meet and Greet” at Kentucky Christian Writers Conference. There were many friends in attendance, as well as guest speakers, editors, and faculty members. Definitely a place to put your best foot forward, and definitely not a place to embarrass yourself.
You know where this is heading.
The event was held in a huge meeting room. One side featured tables and couches for “fellowship,” with the bookstore on the other side. A snack table full of finger foods and other goodies was located in the middle.
I first looked for bargains at the book tables, as my “mad book money” was extremely limited. One book that looked interesting was only $3—practically the only thing in my price range. The author had a box on his table for a giveaway of the book, so I entered my name—although I never win anything.
I made my way to the “fellowship” area, doing my best “schmoozing.” I floated between different groups of friends and made sure to introduce myself to the editors and the published faculty members. I was having a good time while trying to impress as many as possible.
I looked over to the bookstore area and noticed people at the table with the book I wanted, so I figured I had better get my bargain before they were sold out. I passed the snack table, and, of course, I had to get something.
I’ve never met a snack table I didn’t like. I scooped some peanuts onto one of the tiny plates and started munching just as someone got on the P.A. system to announce the winner of the book giveaway. As a name was drawn, I started choking on a peanut.
I was hacking and coughing so hard that a fellow nearby asked if I needed the Heimlich. I waved him off, right at the moment the winner was announced.
“Carlton Hughes!” I had finally won something—while I was coughing up a lung.
I walked (and hacked) to the makeshift stage to get my book and returned to the garbage can near the snack table, thinking that lung might come up any time.
One of my friends told the book’s author that I worked as a college professor, which was also his profession, so he came over to ask numerous questions about my work. The conversation went something like this:
Him: “What courses do you teach?”
Me: “(Cough) Communications (Hack) and journalism.”
Him: “How long have you been teaching?”
Me: “(Hack) Over (Cough) 20 (Hack) years.”
Not exactly a pleasant conversation, and I don’t think I impressed him.
Some wise advice I learned the hard way: in writing or at writers conferences, don’t work so hard to impress others. Be yourself, have fun, and avoid the peanuts.
–By Carlton Hughes
KCWC Planning Committee