Making a good first impression is crucially important in every aspect of your life and is one of the easiest things to learn to do. With a few tips and a little practice, it becomes second nature and has the potential for turning your personal and business life around. You must start to think in terms of the five senses that others use when they first meet you.
First, make sure you don’t have an “air” about you. Be clean, wear clean clothes, brush your teeth and use mouthwash and deodorant. Be conscious of cigarette smoke odors. Fewer people smoke today, and more people are offended by the smell of cigarette smoke on your breath or clothes. It is best not to wear perfume or any scent when you are meeting someone for the first time; there are many people who have allergies to perfumed products.
Second, check your appearance from top to bottom. Even if you can’t afford the best clothes, make sure they are clean, mended and pressed. Make sure your hair is neat, clean and attractively arranged. If you are female, wear minimal makeup and jewelry. Shoes should be appropriate and clean. Make certain that your hands and fingernails are as neat and clean as the rest of you.
Regardless of your gender, develop a firm handshake. To make your handshake memorable, spread your fingers out slightly; it will make your hand seem larger and will give you a little more strength in your grip. Give the same handshake regardless of gender. I have never met a woman who welcomed a limp handshake. Look the other person straight in the eye and smile as you shake their hands.
Repeat their name when it is given to you; concentrate so you will remember their name later. This will make them know you paid attention and will help you remember their name. Say your own name clearly and proudly and tell the other person you are pleased to meet them.
If the situation is one where you are invited to sit down, like a job interview, sit up straight like you would in a fine restaurant. Keeping a genuine smile on your face, like you’re really pleased to meet that person, will help them think highly of you, especially if you are maintaining eye contact. The best time to break eye contact is when you are speaking, not when they are.
If the situation is social, you should have prepared some small talk. Practice a few one-liners in front of the mirror until they appear and sound natural. A few sample ice-breakers might be:
“So how do you know (hostess name)?”
“Do you live locally?”
“That’s a very handsome (ring, necklace, tie).”
When the time comes to exit either a social or business situation, smile, shake hands again and repeat their name, “It was very nice meeting you, Ms. Dobson.”
Congratulations! You have just made a winning first impression!