How to Make a Good First Impression
By Laura McElroy

The first impression we make on someone carries much more weight than we would want it to. But it’s true – if you manage to fudge up that first time you meet someone, every next time you meet them you’ll have that unfavorable image about you in their head working against you.

So, it might be best to start on the right foot and be your most charming and disarming self, right off the bat. But that is one of those things that’s easier said than done. Leaving a good first impression consistently is a skill, something you learn and practice. Here are a couple of things that can help you get a hang of it.

Don’t Be Late

There’s no such thing as being fashionably late. You’re either early, on time, or disrespectful. Leave all the powerplays behind – show people that you value their time and try your best not to waste it by being late to a meeting. Be on time or be slightly early.

Look Appropriately

This doesn’t mean be beautiful, or skinny, or fit — but it means be tidy, and look the way you’re supposed for the occasion. You can dress casually, semi-formal, in business-wear, it doesn’t matter. If it’s proper, it’s good. You don’t even have to have fancy attire – try to be clean and look well-kempt, and you’ll win anyone over.

Practice a Winning Smile

Smiles are important. Right along with the handshake, they are among the most important signals we emit to others. So use your best smile, look people in the eye while you’re smiling, and if at all possible, try to smile honestly. There are few things worse than a seedy smile.

Be Ready to Talk

What to say, what to say? In some cases, the purpose and the structure of the meeting will leave no room for conversational improvisation. If that’s not the case, however, you better be ready to spark a conversation. Going through a list of conversation starters beforehand can do wonders. Just don’t forget to memorize a couple that covers a reasonable variety of situations.

Openness, Confidence, and Authenticity

Ready for the advanced stuff? If you want to do yourself a favor, you’ll need to muster the confidence needed to create a good first impression. People will judge the firmness of your handshake, they’ll judge your voice, they’ll judge your eye contact – they’ll use anything they can to judge your level of confidence. You’ll have to excel on all those fronts.

Not only will you have to excel being confident, but you’ll also have to do it while being your authentic self. It’s too easy to see a persona you use only when meeting people – there will need to be enough of you in there so to avoid appearing fake and with back motives.

Finally, you’ll have to show a level of openness towards most of the things you’ll see or hear during the meeting. Never let yourself go on the defensive, be open even when you’re challenged, and show that things cannot unnerve you that easily.

Finally, you want to practice good manners just in case. It could be said that modern times have made us all pay far less attention to proper manners, but it won’t hurt knowing how things used to be done up until a couple of years ago. If the opportunity presents itself, you’ll get a chance to shine.

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