“How you first meet the public is how the industry sees you. You can’t argue with them. That’s their perception” – Meryl Streep
The words of Meryl Streep ring true for any industry. We see people before we talk to them. You can’t walk in dressed casually and be taken seriously as a professional.
Hence, first impressions go a long way in giving us a headstart we need with new connects and business opportunities.
Why are first impressions so important?
First impressions happen only once. We are judged within seconds of meeting someone. The kind of image you want to leave in someone’s mind is totally up to you.
It’s better to get off to a dazzling start than try to undo the damage. There is another advantage of a great first impression says, Dorie Clark, the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future:
“You get the benefit of the doubt….So then if you ever say the wrong thing, make a mistake, or arrive at work late, the other person is more likely to assume the best“
So a great first impression comes in good stead even later and saves you from goof ups you might commit. Isn’t that an added bonus!
A few simple tips can get you the advantage of a great first impression. But the art is in being able to put them all together in every situation and be consistent. Here goes:
1. Appropriate dress: This is half the battle won. Imagine you walk into a training program where the trainer is casually dressed in T shirt and cut off jeans! Looking the part instantly wins you brownie points.
2. A genuine smile: A smile that reaches your eyes can make a great impact. It helps diffuse nervousness and projects confidence even if you feel a little shaky. A smile also projects you as a friendly person – something you want to be in unfamiliar situations or with first time contacts.
3. Confident body language – Make eye contact and offer a firm handshake. If you need to really boost your confidence, squeeze in a couple minutes to power pose before the meet. The combination of all the above becomes the great first impression you intend to create.
4. Be on time: Don’t arrive in a huff. You be dishevelled and won’t make the right impression. Arrive a little before time so that you can compose yourself, catch you breathe and then face people with a smile.
5. Use names: Like they say – the sweetest sound in any language is the sound of one’s name. So use it whenever you can.
Look for name tags. Or look up the person you are supposed to meet. Make sure you use the name right when you introduce yourself.
It’s a pleasant surprise when you use someone’s name before they introduce themselves. Try and use it a couple of times during your conversation too. If, for some reason, you did not get the name of the person, make sure you clarify right away. If you don’t, you might not get to use it at all – which is bad. Or you’d have to confess mid conversation that you didn’t get the name – which would be worse!
6. Enunciate your name clearly: I can’t count the number of time people just mumble their names. It gets worse when they have unusual names. Be loud and clear. To me, announcing your name confidently is being proud of who you are. I have never had anyone ask me to repeat my name. I am loud and clear the very first time. It starts the conversation on a right note rather than on clarifying names.
7. Dining etiquette: If you are catching up on a lunch or dinner meeting, brush up on your dining etiquette.
Look up the cafe or restaurant in advance. Familiarise yourself with the menu so that you can make the right choice or offer suggestions, if asked.
I have had people meet me in cafes and just shrug shoulders with, “Anything will do” at the time of ordering. And my suspicion is that their nonchalance is more due to lack of familiarity with the menu/restaurant.
It could be your first time visiting a place but there is enough online information that you can look up in advance to sound like a pro.
8. Put away your cellphone: You may be a social media junkie or in the middle of something important. But staring into your phone during a conversation- even if it’s not the first time goes against you. It’s ill-mannered and rude.
You can learn more tips here: how to feel confident in 5 minutes or less
And 16 tips to feel super confident in no time gives you super easy ways to put your best foot forward.
This post is a part of A to Z blogging challenge where I am going to write about 26 soft skills in 26 days and give tips on how to improve on them. If you like these posts, do share them and tell your friends about it.
HOW CAN I HELP YOU
I can help you develop your communication and soft skills that will get you ahead in your career. For a free 20 minute chat with me to discuss your skills need, drop me a line here
If you want your teams to communicate and present better, you can check out my training services to explore the modules on offer.
If you want to partner with a certified coach to work on yourself, I offer one to one personal or virtual sessions to help develop your skills.