Getting off on the wrong foot can be detrimental to your relationship – it’s often very hard to come back from the brink of a bad first encounter, especially when you’re trying to instil trust, confidence and approachability.
Remember these tips for making a great first impression.
1. Perfect presentation
Some might say focusing on your appearance is keeping the connection too shallow, but most would agree that your appearance does the talking before you utter a word. So if you have a meeting at a conservative accounting firm, would you wear your coolest jeans, slogan t-shirt and crazy shoes? Probably not. On the flip side, if your next job interview is at a creative agency where casual attire is totally acceptable, then best to avoid the fancy suit. Try to cultivate the personal brand you want the prospective boss/partner/colleague to associate with you. And whatever the clothing choice, make sure your shoes and clothes are clean and your personal hygiene is up to scratch.
2. Brilliant body language
Another nonverbal clincher is the way you engage with the person from a purely physical perspective. In the first few seconds, you will most likely shake the person’s hand. You can never underestimate the importance of a good handshake. Make it firm but not overpowering. Make it brief but not fleeting. If your hands are sweaty, give them a discreet wipe before the shake. Establish good eye contact in the first moment of greeting and keep it focused throughout the meeting – never look over the person’s shoulder, however tempting it may be. Throw in a smile while you’re at it. No one wants to do business with an unhappy person who has the handshake of a limp fish. Practice makes perfect, so find a willing friend to go through the motions with you.
3. Cement your communication goals
It may be the first few seconds in which you’re creating a first impression, but it’s in the following minutes that you’re cementing it. So it’s worth spending time thinking about how you present yourself through verbal communication. Do you speak clearly, professionally and at an appropriate sound level and pace for the occasion? What do you want the person to think of you? If your goals are that you’d like them to believe you’re trustworthy and confident, then bring that to life in the way you engage with them.
Even though anxiety can be present at first meetings, the best way to handle this is to slow the pace of the conversation and always allow time for the other person to talk and present their questions and opinions. If you interrupt and talk over them, don’t expect them to reciprocate with goodwill. Again, practice makes perfect, so doing some test runs with a friend will provide an opportunity to polish up those skills.
4. Be interested and interesting
Many senior people in the working world have developed a good sense of judging when someone is being disingenuous, so try to be as sincere as you can throughout the first meeting. If you are genuinely interested in what they have to say and who they are, they will respond in kind.
If you can pull this off in your first meeting with a prospective employer, you potentially have the beginnings of a lasting and fruitful connection.