People make a very quick decision about you when you first meet – probably in the first 3 seconds. Their view will be based on your appearance, your expression, your body language, your mannerisms and how you are dressed. Once that impression is formed it will be very difficult to change it. Here are some tips to help you make the right impression
Don’t be late
“Good excuses” for being late for a first meeting or an interview don’t usually work – a view will already be formed. Plan to arrive a few minutes early. Plan your route – you don’t want to get lost! Allow for possible delays in traffic etc..
Arrive early but not very!
Arriving early a few minutes early is great – it gives you time to calm your nerves and the opportunity to prepare for the meeting. But arriving very early is not a good idea – it can embarrass the person you are meeting – a few minutes early is the best plan.
Be yourself – try to relax
If you are feeling uncomfortable and on edge, this can make the other person ill at ease. That creates tension and a wrong impression. Try to be calm and confident – or at least act as if you are. Quite often acting confident leads to you feeling confident! This puts the other person at ease. There is a relaxation technique on this site.
Dress appropriately and present yourself well
What is the appropriate dress for the meeting or occasion? In a business setting, it is usual even today to wear a suit! But this is not true of all companies particularly for example in the Arts and Media! Ask yourself what the person you’ll be meeting is likely to wear? If you not sure try for a company brochure on line and see if you can judge from that what kind of environment its likely to be! Dress varies between countries and cultures, so it’s good to do your home work. Above all do be clean and tidy – apart from anything else it will help you to be confident!
It is important to show who you are! But you do need to give the impression you will fit in. If you are serious about wanting to make a good impression then keep your strong views to yourself until you know the person a little better. The same goes for emotion – a first encounter is not the time to wear your heart on your sleeve – keep it balanced. Having said that, do show the person who you are! Do have opinions when they are asked for – don’t be bland – but keep it appropriate to the occasion!
Smile, just smile!
“Smile and the world smiles too.” is just so true! Smiling (not grinning like a Cheshire cat of course) makes the very best impression. A warm and confident smile makes both of you feel at ease. It gives an impression of interest in the other person. But make it genuine. Be pleased to meet this new contact – who knows what it may lead to. But do mix expressions during the encounter – smiling inanely through-out will not make a good impression. You can look interested and engaged while looking serious – once the first impression is established!
Body language speaks volumes –use yours to project self assurance and honesty. Stand tall, make eye contact and have a firm handshake. Be aware of your own nervous habits and try to control them –relaxation and a few deep breaths while you are waiting to meeting them will help! We all get nervous but you can learn to control it. Be attentive and listen carefully – it will show in your posture and its flattering to the other person.
Conversations are based on verbal give and take. It may useful to prepare some questions for the person you are meeting for the first time beforehand. If you can, take a few minutes to learn something about the person you meet for the first time before you get together. Social media e g LinkedIn is great for that. Find out more about the company for a job interview.
Project a positive attitude, even in a difficult interview or if you are nervous. Keep it up beat and try to learn something from your meeting and to contribute appropriately. Even if its not a success you will have learned something about the process if you are observant.
Good manners and being polite, attentive and courteous help make a good first impression. Now is the time to be on your best behavior! In a different culture find out what good manners are locally and try to follow them – your host will appreciate the effort. Turn off your mobile phone for all significant first encounters, if you can, and certainly for business meetings – you are going to concentrate on the other person.
With these few tips and practice, you can learn to make a brilliant first impression. Make it one of your key competences and learn to enjoy meeting new people even in challenging situations. If you have other ideas – it would be great to hear them.