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Shake On It

When's the last time you put 'er there?

Many historians believe the tradition of shaking hands began in medieval Europe, where a person (typically a man) would offer a newly met stranger his right hand to show it held no weapon.

The handshake has since evolved into the polite greeting we know today, but a recent study conducted by Dr. Allen Konopacki of the Incomm Center for Trade Show Research in Chicago indicates the handshake is far more than a simple gesture--it's actually the beginning of a relationship.

With the help of a group of students, Konopacki conducted an experiment in which a quarter was left in the coin return of a public telephone. If a stranger took the coin after using the phone, a student would walk up and ask whether the person had seen the quarter. The result? Sixty percent of the 75 people asked lied to the students and said they had not seen the quarter.

In the next series of 75 confrontations, the students introduced themselves with a handshake before asking about the quarter. Surprisingly, less than 15 percent of the strangers lied to the students.

The study concluded the handshakes had improved the quality of the interaction, producing, as Konopacki says, "a higher degree of intimacy and trust within a matter of seconds."

This "handshake effect," as Konopacki refers to it, also applies to salespeople. "If a person walks into a store or an exposition and is greeted with a handshake," he says, "he or she is more likely to remember the exhibit and spend more time with the salesperson, who ends up getting a better quality contact or lead."

Contact Source

Incomm Center for Trade Show Research, (312) 642-9377, http://www.

This story appears in the July 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »