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Making a Positive First Impression

Making a Positive First Impression

Let's face it: Meeting someone for the first time can be nerve-wracking. Even if you have on your power suit and look dressed to the nines, most of us still get nervous.

Why? Because we don't want to make a bad first impression. We all know that first impressions matter, and the bad news is that according to one statistic, it only takes seven seconds to make a first impression. However, it takes most of us more than seven to introduce ourselves.

The reality is that while you are talking, people are paying attention and already forming an opinion of you. The better news is that while first impressions matter, so do second, and third, and fourth, and the more you prepare and actually put your best foot (or smile) forward, the easier it will become.

So take a few deep breaths, be mindful of the moment, and step in. Here are some ideas and tips for making a killer impression the first time.

1) Smile.

A smile is so simple to do, yet something we often forget, especially if we’re self-conscious or nervous.

According to one study, most people think a smile is the most memorable feature after meeting someone, even more so than what they say. By smiling, you’re showing someone you are both happy to meet them and comfortable around them.

2) Go beyond “hi.”

People love to talk about themselves, so using phrases like "It’s great meeting you. Where are you from?” or “Wonderful to meet you. Isn’t this a great event?” can go a long way toward bridging a simple intro into a full-blown conversation.

Use their name immediately upon meeting and then repeat it a few times in conversation. Even introducing them to others will help make them feel you are interested. A simple “Where did you go to high school?” could lead to a great connection: “My college roommate went there, too!”

[Related: Rock How You Recognize Colleagues in Your Workplace]

3) Make eye contact.

Behind a handshake and a smile, eye contact is the third, and arguably the most important part of making a solid impression. Why? Simply put, it shows you truly want to speak with them.

Think of how unappealing it is talking to someone when they are constantly looking over your shoulder at what else is going on in the room. When someone looks you in the eye, it shows they’re confident, engaged, and interested.

4) Watch the body language.

Did you know that body language accounts for 93% of a message? Researchers have found it is not what you say but how you say it that is the key to making a positive impression.

This includes everything from posture and vocal tone to hand gestures and the way you are angling your hips. By standing up straight and angling your hips open, you will seem more relaxed and open to conversation.

5) Don’t overthink it.

Being prepared is important, but too much overthinking can come across as distracting and work against you. Worrying too much about making the right impression can take away from engaging in conversation and letting someone get to know you.

The most important thing is to simply be yourself! The more open, friendly, and down-to-earth you can be, the better the impression you will make.

[Related: Authenticity Might be the Key Ingredient for Career Success]

6) Listen to what they are saying.

When speaking with someone for the first time, try to really focus on what they are saying. Don't pay attention to the people walking by you or the comments being made across the table; listen to what the other person is telling you.

By listening carefully, you will learn more about them and be better prepared to respond when they stop talking.

7) Look for common ground.

While listening to the other person, think of some things you have in common or some perspectives you may share.

Figure out a way to subtly bring these commonalities up while speaking with them. This is a great way of establishing a common reference base early on.

8) Exit gracefully.

When the conversation comes to a logical break point, don't just walk away. Tell the person that it was a pleasure speaking with them. Suggest continuing the conversation at another point and offer them your business card, as it provides a means of contacting each other. 

By considering some of these simple suggestions steps and following your own internal compass, you are guaranteed to make a positive, long-lasting first impression!

[Related: Organizations Are Serious About the “No Jerks” Policy When Hiring]


Kathryn Lancioni is the founder and CEO of Presenting Perfection, LLC.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.