First Impression – How To Make It Count
First impression – it is often said that people make their mind up about you in three seconds, yes three seconds! In that time, brief as it is, they will form a first impression of you; they will judge you on your appearance, body language, demeanour, tone of voice, your dress and your mannerisms.
First impressions can make a lasting impression, and it can be nigh on impossible to reverse someone’s opinion of you once formed. Not only that, it also sets the tone for any type of future relationship with that person.
It doesn’t matter how well established you are in your career, making a good first impression is important and in this blog we give you some top tips on how to make a great and powerful first impression.
Always be on time! Being late for a first meeting is an absolute “no”. It says to the other party that in your view they are not important. Always plan your route, allow extra time for any traffic or transport delays. Arriving early and composed is a much better first impression that arriving late and looking flustered.
RELAX & BE YOURSELF
This is easier said than done, and if you are someone who generally feels anxious this is going to be hard. However, you can master it by following some simple pointers. Wear clothes that fit you well and you know suit. Don’t try to be someone you are not! Practice deep breathing and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Speak how you would usually speak and don’t try and adopt an affected way of speaking, it will sound just that.
Being yourself and feeling comfortable will put the other party at ease. If you are on edge, they will be too, and the first impression will not be a positive one.
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LOOK IN THE MIRROR
People will judge you by what you wear and how you look. Whether this is right or wrong, is a subject for debate however, it is human nature. The person you are meeting for the first time has little to go on when they first meet you and your appearance may give them some clues as to who you are.
Nobody is saying you must look like a cat walk model; quite the reverse. You need to be authentic to yourself and present yourself appropriately. What do we mean by this?
Begin with the way you dress. What type of meeting is it? Is it a job interview? Is it meeting with a prospective client? Is it meeting with a funder? So what do you decide to wear. Many people stick to the tried and trusted, namely a black, grey or navy trouser or skirt suit. Typically donned with a white shirt, and for some men a tie in a similar colour. Is this really going to make you stand out? How often do you actually wear a suit and how comfortable do you feel in one? For women, think of a nicely coloured dress, which fits well, and worn with nude heels and matching handbag and simple jewellery this can look fantastic. For men, do you really need to wear a suit? Could you wear smart trousers, a blazer, shirt and tie? And whatever you do, do make sure your shoes are clean. Any by that we mean polished, not just rubbed up and down on the back of your trouser leg before you enter the room. Ladies this is a top tip for you as well; are the heels of your shoes in a good state of repair? Have you removed the label from the bottom of your shoe?
Apart from clothing, also make sure you have agood haircut, clean fingernails, neat and tidy make up, and a good shave. Attention to detail here, will pay off. Why invest in good clothes to only spoil the effect by wearing chipped nail varnish. By paying attention to your appearance you will feel good. And when you feel good, you feel confident.
TO CONFORM OR NOT TO CONFORM
You can still be you, without losing your individuality by following the tips above. Think about the meeting: what’s the purpose of the meeting; what do you know about the other party?; where are you meeting? All important considerations when deciding how to make a first impression count.
A good, open smile goes a long way to making a first impression count. A smile says, “I am happy”, “I am confident” it also puts the other party at ease. There is however, no need to grin like the Cheshire Cat. A warm smile creates a good impression, grinning manically can make you look insincere, if not a little odd.
Body language says more about you than your actual words. Ever hear of the analogy Words, Music and Dance? Well, this says that when we speak the other party pay only 7% attention to our actual words; yes, that’s right only 7%! The rest of their attention will be focused on our tone of voice and our body language.
A good, open posture projects confidence. Walk tall, give a good, firm handshake, maintain appropriate eye contact and of course, smile. This will help you control your nerves and the other party will respond positively too.
MASTER THE ART OF CHIT CHAT
Knowing how to make small talk is an art. In advance of any meeting, prepare a few simple topics of conversation, ideally based on the person you are meeting. “I noticed…..” By inviting them to talk about themselves, is the easiest way to get a conversation going. When they are speaking, don’t just stand or sit there. Reflect what they have said “When you said…that reminded me of….” or “You must be very proud; I would be very interested to learn how you first became involved in…”
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EVEN IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY, STAY POSITIVE
When you doubt yourself, it shows. Learn how to project a positive attitude, even when you don’t feel positive. Even when a meeting hasn’t gone well, take the time to reflect, learn from it and move on.
ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION
Behaving impeccably goes a long, long way. Even if you simply dislike the other person, there is no need to mirror negative behaviour or openly show your dislike and contempt. Stay positive, manage your emotions, and walk away from the meeting knowing there is nothing more you could have done.
On another note, and particularly in this technological age, always switch your mobile phone to silent, and do resist the urge to look at it; a ringing mobile or glancing at the screen, simply says to the other person that you are not that interested and will spoil any great first impression you have made.
You have approximately three seconds to make a great first impression. A failure to do so, can be almost impossible to reverse. Making a good first impression is largely common sense, and the time expended can have significant consequences for you, your career and indeed your future.
MAKE IT COUNT!