It takes just a quick glance, maybe three seconds, for someone to evaluate you when you meet for the first time. In this short time, the other person forms an opinion about you based on your appearance, your body language, your demeanor, your mannerisms, and how you are dressed.
Having a memorable, high quality Business Card or MiniCard is a great first step – but once you've handed it over, and arranged a meeting, there are lots more ways you can make sure people remember you.
With every new encounter, you are evaluated and yet another person's impression of you is formed. These first impression can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, making those first encounters extremely important, for they set the tone for all the relationships that follows.
So, whether they are in your career or social life, it's important to know how to create a good first impression.
Here are some useful tips to help you do this.
Make eye contact
This one is pretty straightforward – read any book about body language and the first thing you’ll learn is that making eye contact allows people to trust you. If you don't, you'll look shifty and like you have something to hide. And who'd do business with that person? (Don't stare deep into their eyes though – that's just weird!)
Looks do matter
If someone turned up to a meeting with you with messy hair or crumpled clothes, you’d notice – and you wouldn't be impressed. So if you're on your way to meet a potential client or employer, make sure you look smart and professional. There's no need to go overboard – just dress like you mean business!
Listen to them carefully
If you're a bit nervous, it's very easy to forget to listen to what your new contact is actually saying. But if you make a concerted effort to really listen, you'll reap the benefits during the meeting – repeat back what they say, ask related questions, and they'll realise you're someone who values their opinion.
Say their name
Don't go overboard on this one, or things could get a bit creepy! But done properly, this is a clever little trick, which reinforces the point above – that you're listening. "John, I absolutely agree with you about that" is a friendly way to let them know that you're engaged, and present in a conversation with them and nobody else. And who doesn't like that in a new colleague?
Timing is everything
Obvious, isn't it? But you'd be surprised how many people think nothing of arriving a few minutes late, assuming that, like their mates, a new contact won't mind waiting. They will mind – and they'll leave with the impression that you're unreliable. So plan ahead – and arrive with time to spare.
Careful with the jokes
Humour is a fantastic ice-breaker, but be very sparing with it. It's all too easy to go just a bit too far and make a new acquaintance feel uncomfortable. If in doubt, tone it down – you can always joke around when you know them a bit better, but if you accidentally offend them, that's the first impression they’ll walk away with.
It's all too easy to slip from being yourself to "professional mode" – but people can tell the difference. They want to meet you, and do business with you, rather than your idea of who they want you to be. So relax and be yourself, and subconsciously, this will help them to relax too. If you're feeling tense, take a few deep breaths – it always helps.
You're pretty when you smile!
Don't go overboard – nothing makes someone more uncomfortable than a grinning stranger. But make sure you smile on first contact and keep your face relaxed and friendly, especially if you know you have a tendency to look severe. Just imagine yourself as the new kid at school – you'd always remember fondly the first person who smiled and invited you to play.
What's your body saying?
It's not just your face that speaks volumes; it's your entire body. Posture, whether your arms are folded or open, even the firmness of your handshake will give the person you're meeting ideas about what they think you're like – and that's before you even open your mouth. Do some research on body language to find out what to avoid and you'll feel what a difference it makes.
It's not all about you
Well, not this time anyway! The point is, make sure you don't talk too much about yourself, and allow them instead to tell you about themselves. If you're the interviewee, then obviously the rules are a little different, but even so, people respond well to questions about their business and their plans, and you'll find they prefer doing business with someone who is genuinely interested in their ideas.