Making an excellent first impression
The cliché is true – you really do have one chance to make a first impression because people evaluate you based on what you do and say in those first few moments. Learn how to make an impact and generate new opportunities.
When meeting someone, going beyond a simple introduction helps to build a relationship.
“[First impressions are] about being likable, approachable, credible and overall, someone who others will remember meeting,” said Jayne Mattson, Senior Vice President of Keystone Associates (a division of Keystone Partners).
“The next time they hear of you, you want them to think of positive things, not negative. People want to help others they like and would want others to meet.”
What you do and say depends on what you’re trying to accomplish from meeting that person, but with every first impression, you want to be positive, polished and professional and have a demeanour and temperament to match.
Here are tips to help you make that great first impression:
Prepare and practice, practice, practice!
More than likely, you want more than just an introduction so prepare yourself by researching the people you may meet beforehand – you may have mutual connections which will help solidify the relationship early.
Lead with sincerity and a warm welcoming personality, and don’t talk about the same thing to different people.
Depending on the situation, like if you’re in a job search or conference, your introductions should be different.
“You want to think about who you are meeting and what you want to say about yourself,” said Jayne. You may need to be the first to speak, and you may need to speak without any preparation.
The goal and what you want to convey can go hand and hand.
If someone is in a job search, for example, their introductions in the beginning of the search is hopefully different than those during the middle or end because of what they have learned and are looking for from others has likely evolved.
You can always tweak your introduction but practice what you say so that you sound confident, succinct and authentic. Perhaps practice “mock introductions” with friends.
“If you know you are going to be introduced to someone, think ahead and prepare for your introduction,” said Jayne. “The goal and what you want to convey can go hand and hand. Overall, you want the person who you are being introduced to want to get to know you better.”
Keep the Conversation Going
“Focus on the other person first by asking open ended questions,” said Lori Reiner, Partner and Chief People Officer of accounting firm EisnerAmper. This will help to start a conversation to keep the other person engaged.
You want to learn about the other person too. “People often talk too much about themselves and do not do enough to draw others into the conversation,” said Jayne. “Draw in the other person by asking them questions – what they do for work, what do they like about the work they do – or if you are meeting them in a networking event, ask what brought them to this event.”
As you connect with and learn about the other person, mention something newsworthy you may have read to show your interest and that you’re informed. Connecting on a personal level matters as well because you may find you have common hobbies or a hobby that interests the other person, said career expert Vicki Salemi.
Body Language Matters
That first impression is a reflection of who you are as a person, so set the bar high, said Vicki. Be engaged and focused with the person you’re meeting and everyone around you, and use body language that demonstrates you’re interested in and are listening to what people are saying.
Body language also plays a part in whether someone will approach you, said Jayne. Folded hands in front of your body reflects unhappiness and perhaps hostility, for example, but standing tall, smiling with good eye contact will make you approachable and during a conversation, will show your interest in the other person that hopefully they will reciprocate.
Be Considerate of Others
Along with the person you’re meeting, you also want to be kind and respectful to the other people you interact with, like receptionists, wait staff and drivers, for example. Others may see or hear about these interactions, and that interaction can affect the relationship you’re trying to build.
“Relationships are not made in one conversation alone,” said Lori. “If you enjoy someone’s company that you met and you feel they could be helpful to you and vice versa, do not forget to follow up.” Exchange emails or add each other to social networks when you meet, and consider sending an email the next day to continue the relationship.
About the author
Andrea Murad is a New York–based writer. Having worked on both Wall Street and Main Street, she now pursues her passion for words. She covers business and finance, and her work can be found on BBC Capital, Consumers Digest, Entrepreneur.com, FOXBusiness.com, Global Finance and InstitutionalInvestor.com.