Research suggests that you only have seven seconds to make a first impression. In that time people sense your dress, appearance and body language – and if you speak - the quality of voice. That impression sets the stage for paying attention to what you say and determining whether someone thinks that your trustworthy and whether you're someone they want to work with. Here are 10 tips for making a great first impression.
Choose a style
Style can be the reason people welcome or dismiss you. Before meeting a new client or audience, do an analysis. Should you go traditional? Would they warm to an informal or artistic touch, or would that brand you an outsider? If you're not sure about dress, either ring to check or err on the side of conservative. Above all, be comfortable. Confidence is an important starting point.
Your clothes don’t have to be costly but they do have to fit. A jacket that’s big in the shoulders, an uneven hem, wrong length trousers and sleeves and anything baggy will make you look badly dressed whatever you’ve paid for what you wear. This is true whether you’re suited or smart casual.
Make a full length check
What you see looking down isn’t what others see looking straight at you. Before leaving for a meeting, look at yourself in a full length mirror. Look with an objective eye. Do you present a smart picture? Is anything amiss?
Test your handshake
The limp fish handshake won’t ever do, yet you don’t want to be vigorous. Aim for firm, and while you offer a handshake, make eye contact. The best way to get the balance right is test it out with those who will take you seriously and give you honest feedback.
Check out your breath. It’s easy to do by yourself. Lick your wrist, leave it for a moment, and sniff. Or get others to tell you; you’d rather know.
Make sure there are no distractions. Are there pet hairs in your car? Check your back before entering a meeting. After a salad lunch, check your smile. Switch off your phone, event if it is on silent the vibration of your mobile might have a negative impact on you or your audience.
Clutter is unsettling. If you have luggage, laptop, briefcase, coat, umbrella and the rest, leave it in the car or at reception, or ask someone to find a closet where you can store everything but the essentials. Whatever you do, make sure there’s a space around well dressed, confident, immaculate you.
Good manners go a long way and send a positive message to your audience.
Think posture and smile
Before you enter a room, relax, stand naturally tall – and even if you’re feeling insecure, whistle that happy tune to yourself and try to feel quietly self-assured. While a friendly grin may be out of place, a genuine smile can never go amiss.
Hold your focus
No matter how many people you’d like to meet, give the person you’re talking to your full attention. There’s little more insulting than scanning the rest of the room while pretending to be engaged in conversation. All your hard work in preparation will go to waste if you then fail to listen attentively.
And now you should have everything you need to go forward and make that great first impression and remember, you're not the only one that might be feeling nervous so, just be yourself and enjoy the experience.