We live in a world filled with short attention spans, where trust doesn't come easily. To keep their attention and gain their trust, you must make a great first impression.
So if your goal is to get further ahead in your social or professional life, you need to get people to like you. Immediately.
You need to be memorable. Today I'm sharing 10 surefire tips for nailing any first impression. Here's what we have coming up:
- Be on time and do your homework
- Wear the right uniform
- Greet people properly
- Make eye contact
- Assume they like you
- Get their name, remember it and say it correctly
- Control your body language
- Be a great listener
- Be open to talking about yourself
- Bring other people into the conversation
Plus, the five mistakes you should avoid to make a great first impression:
Before I get to these first 10 tips, you must understand how they work for you. You need to understand something called the ‘Anchor Effect':
What Is The Anchor Effect?
Here are the facts: our brains are lazy. They look for associations and patterns all the time. Patterns are predictable.
Predictable things take less effort to anticipate, and our lazy brains love effortless calculations.
That means that any time we receive a piece of information (and visual appearances are just that), our brain latches onto that data as the “anchor,” or starting point for all associated evaluations.
Once formed, it's tough to move away from that anchor. It exerts a kind of gravity on the thought process, limiting the extent to which people can change their opinion.
How does this translate to the first impression?
If you are dressed and groomed well, with excellent body language and a pleasant scent, then the anchor is in a good place for you to work from. If not, then you will always be held down by that anchor.
With that in mind, here are the ten best ways to make a GREAT first impression (and some mistakes to avoid).
Tip #1 Be On Time & Do Your Homework
It isn't the end of the world (although it is pretty rude) if you're late to a dentist appointment or parent-teacher conference. But when your career's on the line, being on time matters! Nothing hinders your ability to make a great first impression like being tardy.
Punctuality is a habit. You have the power to make it yours. You'll realize in the long run how great it feels to show up on time, to have no sense of guilt for having others wait on you.
You also need to do a bit of research on the people you will see before any event you attend.
If there's a prominent lawyer, consultant, or media mogul you wish to discuss business with – you should know what company he works for, the titles of his books, or what his YouTube channel is all about.
Having that info gives you a leg up on others who'll also be interacting with him.
Tip #2 – Wear The Right Uniform
As a rule, you must dress per the occasion. And there is always a dress code.
Go casual if it's a casual event and formal if it's a business-like setting.
But also bear in mind that your clothing has to communicate positive messages about you, your status, your profession, and the company you represent.
A power suit in the right color says “wealth and influence.” A Hawaiian shirt says “retired or on vacation.” A pink shirt with a popped collar says, “drunken frat boy.”
Ensure the clothes you wear are appropriate to your surroundings and sending the message you want them to convey and you will always make a great first impression.
Tip #3 Greet People Properly
If making first impressions was like running a sprint, the greeting is the equivalent of how you perform at the starting line.
If you do it right, it'll give you momentum for the rest of the run. Otherwise, you'll probably stumble in the first few meters and then lose big time.
When you greet someone, offer your name and give a firm but gentle handshake in which your palm and fingers touch the other person's. That's what works in most of the Western world.
But other countries and cultures may have their customs for greeting. Ensure that you're aware of these before you travel anywhere. Do your research. It means so much to the locals when foreigners show respect to their customs.
Tip #4 Make Eye Contact
Eye contact is probably the most vital form of non-verbal communication (more so than one's handshake or sitting posture). Unfortunately, there's no universal rule when it comes to it. Your culture and social environment play a significant role.
The fact is most people aren't comfortable with too little or too MUCH eye contact. There's a fine line between paying attention and being aggressive.
So whether you're the one talking or listening, follow these guidelines to avoid negative body language:
- Keep your eyes up. Avoid looking anywhere below the person's neck – as this may lead them to think you're checking them out.
- Use different facial expressions. A blank face can make you come across as disinterested. Smile and nod your head, or do any small action that proves you're not a robot.
- Never stare. Staring can make the other person uncomfortable or distract them from what they're supposed to be saying or hearing. Look away for a quick second now and then. This slight movement shows you're actively engaged in the conversation.
Tip #5 Assume They Like You
Do you know the feeling when you bump into an old friend on the sidewalk? Pleasant surprise? Excitement?
No nerves or anxiety because you're eager to catch up? That's how you should feel to some extent when meeting people you want to impress.
The key is to have a mindset that the other person already likes you. Of course, it doesn't mean you speak to them exactly as you do with close friends.
But with that similar energy and positive vibe – your body relaxes. You become more open and your words flow better. You put on a genuine smile.
That person will pick up on those things and feel much more comfortable around you. And you'll be well on your way to impressing them.
Tip #6 Get Their Name, Remember It & Say It Correctly
Nothing sounds sweeter to somebody's ears than their name. They care about their name and the way it's pronounced.
Their name is a big part of who they've always known themselves to be. So once they mention it, you're obligated to remember it.
Don't get me wrong – forgetting names is one of the most common, innocent mistakes out there. But there's also a tinge of rudeness that comes with it no matter what.
So follow these tips and techniques to remember people's names when you first meet them:
- Repeat the name right after they introduce themselves. Make it fit naturally into your sentence like “Nice to meet you, Bill” or “How long have you been in Microsoft, Bill?”
- Spell out the name in your head. It helps to get a mental picture together with the sound you hear. If that person gives their business card, glance at it while you're having a chat.
- Try associating the name with a similar-sounding word that's sort of relevant to that person (something like “Mark from Manhattan” or “Sophie who works in sales “).
Tip #7 Control Your Body Language
Don't get so focused on what to say next that you forget about the non-verbal signals you're sending. Before you know it, you get fidgety.
The arms start shaking—your nose twitches. The hands cling to your pocket…then to your elbow.
As innocent as they are, those little tics can distract people from listening to your words. They might even wholly turn people off to you.
So what's the best solution? Pay attention to the other person's body language and copy it.
This is mirroring – or mimicking someone's behavior in subtle ways. It's not about being a parrot and imitating every arm motion or finger tap.
Your goal is to exude some familiarity and common ground. Researchers at New York University have called this the “chameleon effect.”
The general aspects of body language like folding the arms or talking with one hand at neck level, are what you can mimic to come across as relatable and likable.
Tip #8 Be A Great Listener
We come into this world with a pair of eyes, ears, and just one mouth. Why?
Because it's more important to observe and listen than to talk. In an age where anybody can air their thoughts online – that's a truth to always bear in mind.
Make it a point to listen without interrupting. Don't just wait for your turn to speak. And don't forget to maintain good eye contact while listening.
Being a great listener isn't about silence. It means asking questions that show you are paying attention, encouraging the speaker to go on.
We all have a little ego in us – which can take a blow whenever people act like they disregard what we have to say.
So have the decency to let anyone you just met speak without being cut off. Remember that basic respect goes a long way in solidifying any new connections you form (especially in your professional life).
Tip #9 Be Open To Talking About Yourself
The trick with this is learning how to talk engagingly. You're not going to stick out in a sea of small-talkers at a party or conference unless you make yourself memorable to others.
For example, this is how I'd go about giving an excellent first impression to a woman in her forties who works as a high-level consultant:
- I understand she's not my target audience for RMRS, but she might know somebody else who is. Or she's married to a man who could use my help.
- I approach her, say hello, and gradually steer the dialogue to ask, “Do you know how most men don't dress well?” (which I must've said thousands of times before).
- She agrees. We have something in common. I proceed to tell her about my business, my YouTube channel, the products and courses I sell, and who I help.
- The conversation ends and she remembers me for the relatable and exciting stuff I said.
In a nutshell, that's how I continue to build connections. And you're encouraged to emulate that. Just be confident with yourself and proud of what you do.
Tip #10 Bring Other People Into The Conversation
Never end a conversation abruptly.
Finish just as strongly as you started. That's why it helps to know different people to introduce to one another.
It highlights that you're a confident team player with the ability to take the initiative.
When you reach a point where you want to end your side of the conversation, or you're worried you might be talking too much, go ahead and bring in a friend or acquaintance nearby who isn't busy speaking with others.
Afterward, you can excuse yourself politely. Say you're getting another drink or you need to talk to somebody else who just arrived. You successfully avoid any awkwardness by ending this way.
5 First Impression Mistakes To Avoid
Mistake #1 – Heavy Sweating
We've all been there, missed a train or made a wrong turn that caused us to run for it in the effort to be on time. Even if you get there on time, you find yourself disheveled and sweating.
Adding in extra time in your commute is vital to avoid this impression.
If you are naturally a heavy sweater and on time, sweating can send a different message. The other person could see you as overly nervous or uncomfortable in your surroundings.
It becomes difficult to send the message that you are confident if you have armpit stains.
Investing in good undershirts with moisture-wicking technology and a quality, natural aluminum-free men's deodorant to curb the sweat is an excellent way to ensure your best image.
Mistake #2 – A Limp Handshake
Keep in mind that how you shake hands says a lot about your character (according to behavioral research). A firm handshake displays total confidence, plus a commanding presence that doesn't overpower the other person. It meets these requirements:
- Stand/sit with good posture
- Smile/have a pleasant vibe
- Make good eye contact
- Give a light squeeze (press until you feel pressure on your skin and then stop)
- Hold the grip for only 2 seconds (anything longer will make you seem weird or desperate)
- Call the person by name (when you meet someone and they give their name, repeat it back to them like ” Nice to meet you, Thomas. I'm Antonio.”)
Mistake #3 – Weak Body Language
Even though we're unaware of it, certain poses can send positive signals to the brain. And allow you to do things while being more relaxed and confident.
There are two basic poses – high-power (open and tension-free) and low-power (guarded and closed off).
Low-power poses or negative body language signals defensiveness or anxiety – since you tend to lean away from people or point your feet in another direction.
Here are some high-power poses to master instead:
- Stand with your hands resting lightly on the hips and your legs spread (with the neck, chest, and stomach all uncovered)
- Seated with your legs spread, feet flat on the ground, and palms face down on a table
- Sit with your legs crossed and hands tucked behind the head
- Seated with your feet propped up and hands tucked behind the head
- Keeping your legs slightly spread, chin raised, and chest puffed
Mistake #4 – Showing Tics or Nervousness
Is it normal to feel nervous? Yes. Do all of us have our tics? Absolutely.
But there comes the point where those nervous habits become too distracting for the other person.
Not everyone is going to see them as signs of nerves. Some people may think you're not listening to them or not interested in talking.
So take a good look at yourself. What do you do subconsciously? Ask your closest friends if you're not sure what they are. They could be the simplest gestures that occur 20-30 times in one sitting:
- Frequent eye blinking, nose-twitching
- Head-jerking, shrugging
- Shaking or playing with one arm
- Saying clutch words between phrases (avoid such terms – they can downgrade the strength and quality of your speech or make you appear less intelligent)
What's the best way to combat those tendencies? Relax!
Find time to take a deep breath and calm down before meeting someone for the first time (especially if it's a date, client, or VIP). Do meditation or yoga to train yourself to be more relaxed before nerve-wracking situations.
And instead of blurting out clutch words, learn to embrace silent moments in the middle of conversations.
It's okay to pause now and then so you can think. You can use pauses to emphasize your points and give the other person more time to absorb them.
Mistake #5 – Saying Nothing
Yes – it's a bad thing to be too quiet or reserved when meeting new people. Just saying “Hi. How are you?” is NOT enough.
So always be prepared with some personal stories worth sharing. Make them emotionally appealing – better if there's a happy ending!
Those stories need a hook that puts you in the best possible light. But also remember to keep them under 3 minutes long to avoid “dragging” parts.
Make sure you have various stories to tailor to different audiences – whether it's a young kid, a high schooler, a young professional, or a senior citizen.
These help a lot when you work with people for the first time. While you do want to be careful with your words in an office environment, being too quiet can hurt your productivity. So don't treat your workplace like a library or sacred temple.
Always show enthusiasm. Be proactive in exchanging ideas with people you just met. Steer the conversation in a way that allows both parties to get to know each other. That's how you'll stand out.
Bonus – Don't Forget About Your Online Impression
One thing you can never forget, is you have to make a great first impression online too.
If someone skimming over your public online presence for the first time finds you tedious, or offensive, or even just sloppy in your punctuation, that impression is going to stay with them.
And whether it feels like it or not, people are looking. Most managers, recruiters, and HR personnel say they use web searches and social media to evaluate potential hires and clients in most surveys. So…
How do you make a good impression remotely?
Try to think of yourself as a brand and market that brand accordingly. Separate your personality from your persona — they're not the same thing!
You should be asking yourself the same questions a skilled marketer does:
- What do you have to offer? (your “product” — in this case, yourself!)
- Who are you offering it to? (your “target market”)
- How are you going to reach them (your “channels”)
- How will you sustain interest/stay in touch?
It can be a little disconcerting to think of yourself this way at first. But remember, the things that you like and value about yourself as a person aren't necessarily the things you're selling as a product — or maybe they are!
It all depends on who you are, what line of work you're in, and what you're looking for from other people and businesses.
There's no wrong way to think about it except not at all.
There you have it, gents. 10 valuable tips to make a great first impression every time.
Bear them in mind, practice at home in front of the mirror, and see what areas you can improve each time you meet new people.
If anyone you meet can check off the positive traits that come with those tips – punctual, well-dressed, well-spoken, polite, and memorable – your odds of nailing first impressions will skyrocket.
Treat yourself like a world-class novel that has so much to offer that's ready to be opened up and discovered. Everything's written to perfection. All that's left is the book cover. So make it a masterpiece so people will want to open it.
Click below to watch the video – 10 Tips To Create An AMAZING First Impression!
Listen to the podcast – 10 Steps to an Amazing First Impression