Here’s the awful truth: most people will judge you within the first seven seconds of meeting you and their opinion will most likely never change. So making a good first impression is incredibly important, because you only get one shot at it.
When you meet someone for the first time, they’re taking a rapid inventory of your gait, your smile, your handshake, and how you present yourself. They’re also deciding if you’re genuinely nice, if they want to know you and even if they want to work with you, all in those first few critical seconds, merely based on what they see, and how you make them feel.
So what can you do to ensure that the first impression you make is a spectacular one? Here are 5 expert tips.
- Be aware of how you appear to others
You want to be sure that you’re presenting yourself in the best possible light. Prepare ahead of time to put your best self forward – clothing, hair, accessories. Make sure that every part of your appearance says what you want it to say to the people you’re meeting for the first time. This will make you feel your best and contribute to leaving a great first impression.
- Be conscious of your body language
Body language is a crucial part of first impressions. Your body language speaks volumes. Studies have proven that it has four times more influence on first impressions than anything you actually say. Genuine smiles create better first impressions, as do firm handshakes and purposeful eye contact. Often, simply being aware of your body language can result in immediate improvements. Try to avoid negative body language habits such as touching your face or tapping your feet: tics like these suggest a lack of confidence.
- Be the one to start the conversation
Don’t wait for the other person to make the first move. First, smile. Research shows people will want to talk to you if you’re smiling. Then plunge right in with some light banter. You can prepare ahead of time and learn something about the person you’re meeting or about the company they represent and then begin the conversation with something you’ve learned. Or simply begin by asking them how their day has been going. And remember that a dialogue is a two-way street. Unless the person facing you is comatose, you won’t have to carry the conversational ball all alone.
- Pay close attention to what the other person is saying
Sometimes, in a stressful situation, it’s easy to let your mind sort of freeze. Don’t! Because if the person you’re meeting realizes you’re not really paying attention, you’ve lost your chance to make a good impression. So lean into the conversation and show that you’re hanging on to every word, to prove that you really are interested – and interesting.
- Be your most authentic self
How can you be sure people are judging you accurately if you’re putting on an act? You never want to give people an inauthentic impression: most people can immediately sense when someone is a phony. Remember that most people are just as uncomfortable or anxious as you are during a first meeting. Tell yourself that you are good enough just as you are, and be as genuine as you know how to be. That’s how great impressions are made.
From conferences to meetings to training sessions to business lunches, every encounter presents an opportunity to meet people, network, and expand your professional contacts by making a positive first impression. You’ve got just seven seconds – but if you handle it well, seven seconds are all you need!