A good first impression is a key element in establishing the tenor of your relationships. Whether you are meeting clients for the first time, being interviewed by the press or speaking before a room of people, people evaluate you very quickly. The first rule of good first impressions is to always be yourself, smile and relax. Put the other person or people at ease, and you are well ahead of the game. You do not have to give up any aspect of your unique personality to create a good first impression.
Beyond the smile that you should be wearing, your manner of dress is a key factor in another’s first impression of you. Your appearance is typically the first visual impression someone has and a wardrobe mistake can create havoc with every other aspect of your encounter. In general dress appropriately for the context of the meeting, while still expressing your individuality. Clothing, however, is only the veneer that covers other aspects of your appearance. Being well groomed and visibly prepared for your role in a business context help to assure others that you are confident and in control of both the setting and your discipline.
Use appropriate body language. Standing tall, smiling, making eye contact and a strong handshake all contribute to an overall sense of comfort and confidence. Moderate your voice and your laugh, and watch for involuntary habits that you might have long-ago dismissed but which may prove distracting to your new acquaintances. In particular, make sure your gestures are purposeful and deliberate, and that you are careful to respect others’ personal space.
Did I mention a smile? It comes easier to some of us than others. I, personally, do not smile as much as I should and it’s something I practice. Lighten up a bit with me and we will both make better first impressions.
Most importantly, show interest in others. Attentive behavior to what others are saying, good manners and courteous behavior all are components of an overall first impression. Remember that your potential clients are interested in you only to the extent you are interested in them and their travel plans. It should therefore go without saying that your focus should be on others – be a good listener, give others an ample chance to speak and draw them out with questions.
Please, please, please do not look at your watch, your cell phone, take a call or text. Multi-tasking has become the first sin of first impressions. You are telling the person with whom you are speaking there are more pressing matters at hand. Unless you are engaged in an all-out emergency, focus on the person in front of you. We will say this one again this week because it has become a pet peeve.
It’s said we only have one chance to make a good first impression. Knowing that in advance and preparing for it makes good sense.