I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. MAYA ANGELOU
How you start any relationship is extremely important. Within seconds of meeting you, people make decisions about you based on their first impressions, then gather more evidence to support it, so always plan for your first impression. Your first impressions are usually the final impressions, because it is what happens at this point that opens the door for you to make further impressions or shuts the door firmly on you for good. So make it count.
So how do you make a powerful first impression?
- Your appearance: Your appearance including grooming is very important in a first meeting and should communicate who you are and what you want to say to the person or people you are meeting for the first time. It is you visual resume and should always highlight what is right and great about you. Unspoken details colour others’ judgements about your character, capabilities and your value. Every detail matters, so pay attention to every item on your body.
- Be on time: Tardiness is insulting and disrespectful. But don’t be too early either. For business meetings being 5 to 10 minutes early is okay but not more.
- Your Smile: A warm, genuine smile involving both your lips and eyes gives you instant attraction, tells the other person that you are happy to meet him or her and puts him or her at ease.
- Your Handshake: Because the handshake is the only physical closeness at most first meetings, much emphasis is placed on it. It is an important part of your first impression. If you’re the host, you should offer a welcome hand. If both of you are on equal grounding, then it doesn’t matter who offers their hand first. Male or female, gender doesn’t matter. Often the person who offers his or her hand first takes control. So be the first to offer your hand.
- The Power of Eye Contact: Make direct eye contact and hold it for a handshake. Aim to maintain eye contact 95% of the first few seconds. If you’re meeting more than one person, divide your eye contact between them. Maintain eye contact with whoever is speaking to you at each time. This shows the person that you are listening to what they are saying. Eye contact engages your audience and helps them to trust you.
- Facial Expression: Your facial expression is very important in a first meeting. So be mindful of it. Make sure it matches your words. Your facial expression is more powerful that your words, because it is more revealing of your emotional well-being. No matter how positive your words are, if you’ve got a scowl on your face, people will think that you are angry and will walk away from you. An attentive, warm and friendly facial expression is more likely to make a great first impression.
- Body Language: Your body language communicates who you are before you’ve even uttered a single word. It communicates how you feel and a greater percentage of what you want to say in any face-to-face encounter. Closed body language such as tightly folded arms across your chest, hunched shoulders, double crossed legs, head resting on your arms, leaning away, lack of eye contact, yawning or constantly looking at your watch, communicate that you don’t want to be there and that you are tired, bored and not interested in whatever is going on. This will stop you from engaging effectively with others. Conversely, an open body language such as sitting upright with squared shoulders, your arms upturned, good and sustained eye contact, smiling, leaning forward, head tilted say that you are happy to be there and that you are genuinely interested in what is happening and open to learning about others. This encourages better conversations and engagement with others. When your body language is open, warm, confident and friendly, people will be drawn to you.
- Names: When you are introduced to a person, pay attention and listen closely to his or her name and use the name to address him or her straight away as you shake hands. Ask for the name again right away, if you didn’t catch it the first time. If the name is in a different language, ask for the correct pronunciation, so that you can say it correctly. People appreciate that you’d taken the time to get their names right. This will help you to make a better connection with them.
- Be Interested: Show interest by listening – listen respectfully, intently and empathetically. Listening makes you captivating. Listening to understand not to respond and being patient and not interrupting, finishing the other person’s sentences, fidgeting, glancing at your watch or letting your eyes wander off, creates trust. Be determined to learn about the other person rather than talking about yourself. Focus on what he or she has to say and then respond appropriately. If you show genuine interest in who they are, you will have a better conversation and an immediate connection.
- Matching and Mirroring: Very subtle matching and mirroring of the body language of the other person indicates a connection and will help you to build rapport quickly. So, if the other person’s energy and demeanour is calm and controlled, but yours is much higher and animated, try to control yours until you get to know him or her better. You don’t want to overwhelm and alienate him or her in the first few seconds. You may gradually and subtly inject some more energy and enthusiasm to your mannerisms as he or she gets to know you better.
- Your First Few Words: Your first few words should be warm, positive and complementary. You may compliment, but not flatter. Whether it’s, “It’s so lovely to finally meet you” Or, “Thank you so much for inviting me”, choose your words carefully and deliver them warmly with plenty of eye contact and a smile.
- Poise: The way you sit, stand, walk, should be effortlessly elegant and composed. Sitting, standing and walking with effortless elegance, purpose and composure makes you appear confident, at ease and in control. Conversely, slouching, letting your body flop or fold up and moving in a clumsy and awkward manner communicates subservience, low self esteem, low energy and that you are unsuccessful in life. It makes you look unfit, frumpy and older than your are. This is not the impression you want to make when you meet people for the first time.
BE A STORY WORTH TELLING