How to Make a Good 'First Impression'
by, The Small Business Knowledge Base
We sometimes get only one chance to make an impression on someone either in our personal or business life. Therefore it is important to remember some basic things to do that will assure us of making the best impression possible. Here are ten of the most common things people can do to make the best first impression possible.
- Appear Neat And Dress Appropriately
Being neat in our appearance is something we can do regardless of whether we are trying to make a good impression on someone or not. In a *first meeting* situation for business, to show up in jeans, tennis shoes and with uncombed hair would be a big mistake. If the situation is social, dressing casual is fine depending on where you are meeting, but being well groomed is always going to make a good impression.
- Maintain Good Eye Contact
From the first time you meet the person til you part, maintain good direct eye contact with them. This usually indicates to people that you are listening to them, interested in them, and friendly. You need not stare or glare at them. Simply focus on them and their immediate direction the majority of the time. When talking, look at them also, since your new acquaintance wants to be sure you are talking to him/her and not the floor. It also will give you an idea of how the person is receiving what you are saying to them if you are looking at them.
- Shake Their Hand At The Beginning And When Parting
Whether it is a business meeting or a social occasion, most people appreciate or expect a friendly handshake. The best kind is firm (no need to prove your strength) and 3-5 seconds long. Pumping up and down or jerking their arm about is not needed nor usually welcomed. A *limp rag* handshake is not recommended unless you have good reason to believe shaking the person's hand any harder would injure them. Look at them in the eye when shaking their hand.
A smile goes a long way in making a first impression. When you shake hands with the person, smile as you introduce yourself or say hello. Even if the other person does not smile, you can, and the other person will remember it. As you talk or listen to the person speak, smile off and on to show your interest, amusement, or just to show you are being friendly.
- Listen More Than You Talk
Unless you are asked for your life story (in which case give a very abbreviated version) let the other person do most of the talking as you listen. Listening to your new acquaintance will give you information to refer to later, and it will give your new friend the impression you are genuinely interested in them, their business, etc. If you are asked questions, feel free to talk. If you are really bored, avoid 3-5 word sentence replies to your companion's questions. Pretend at least to be interested. You won't/don't necessarily ever have to talk with this person again.
- Relax And Be Yourself
Who else would you be? Well, sometimes people try to act differently than they normally would to impress or show off to a new acquaintance. Putting on facades and *airs* is not recommended, as a discerning person will sense it and it will have a negative affect on how they view you. Just be yourself and relax and *go with the flow* of conversation.
- Ask Them About *Their* Business And Personal Life
Show that you have an active interest in the other person's professional and personal life. When an appropriate time comes, ask them to tell you about their family and their business if they have not already done so. People love to talk about themselves. They usually feel flattered and respected when others, especially people who have never met them, show real interest in their business and their personal life. It also shows that you are not self-centered when you do not spend alot of time talking about yourself and *your* life.
- Don't *Name Drop* Or Brag
Very few people you will meet for the first time will be favorably impressed if you start telling them you know Donald Trump, Don Johnson, or the CEO of Widgits, Inc. They want to get to know you and have you get to know them. Experienced and secure business people are not impressed by who you know as much as what you know. If someone asks you if you know *so and so*, then it's appropriate to tell them the truth. Unless they do, it sounds like you are very insecure and trying to really *impress them*. Bragging about your financial, business or social coups or feats is likewise in bad taste and not recommended. Just keep it simple and factual and be yourself.
- Don't Eat Or *Drink* Too Much
If your first meeting is at a function or place where food and alcohol are served, it is wise to eat and drink in moderation. This is especially true of drinking alcohol! You want to be able to listen well and remember what is said, and speak well for yourself. There is probably nothing that leaves a worse first impression on a business or social date than for their new *acquaintance* to get intoxicated and to say or do things that are embarrassing, rude, crude, or all three. Use good self-control and eat as your new friend does, and drink only in social moderation or not at all. What is done one night under the influence of alcoholic merriment might be regretted for hundreds of nights in clear-headed sobriety!
- Part With A Smile, A Handshake And A Sincere Comment Or Compliment
Regardless of how you felt the evening went it is simply common courtesy to shake hands when the evening is over, offer a smile and some sort of friendly comment or compliment. If it was a social evening and you had a great time, offer a sincere compliment and let them know you'd like to meet again. If it was a business meeting, offer a smile and a sincere comment around how it was nice to meet them, get to know them, learn about their business etc. You may never have to see the person again, but they may know people who they will tell about their meeting with you who you *will* work with or need to meet down the road. It always pays to be kind and polite even if you were not treated that way or did not enjoy the time you spent with someone.