First Impressions Matter: Here's How to Make All of Them Great
Make a great first impression on everyone you speak to.
These days, you’re just as likely to meet your next big client while waiting in line at Starbucks as you are while attending an official networking event, which means that every first impression matters. Even someone who knows nothing about your industry could be related to or working with someone who needs exactly your expertise, and if you make an impression on them, that contact could change your business.
This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours in front of a mirror scrutinizing and nitpicking yourself or your business. If you keep these five tips from Biron Clark of Career Sidekick in mind, you’ll leave everyone from your fellow Starbucks patrons to the speaker at your next networking event with a smile on their face when they think of you.
1. Clearly define what it is you do.
The first step to being able to articulate something to others is to fully understand it yourself. Focus on the one thing you do best and make it the center of your elevator pitch. Make sure it’s clear and easily understood, even by those who aren’t familiar with your industry. If you tell someone you’re great at six different things, none of them will stick. But if you focus on your strongest skill and are able to articulate why you’re the best at that one thing, they’ll remember you for that and are much more likely to be impressed.
2. Listen twice as much as you talk.
In a world full of distractions, it’s unusual to get someone’s undivided attention while you’re talking. By focusing one hundred percent on the person you’re speaking to and actually listening to what they’re saying, you’ll make them feel important. It’s a rare and special enough feeling that they’ll remember you for it. If you feel you’re talking too much, use a question to bring the focus of the conversation back to them. Something like “You mentioned earlier that you’re focused on lead generation and business development for your startup right now. Do you have a background in this? Or what made you decide to step into that role as a founder?”
3. Be a super-connector.
Even if you aren’t a connector by nature, this is worth the extra effort. Find out what they do and how they could be helped and then figure out one person you know who they might benefit from knowing (and who would also benefit from knowing them.) Make the introduction that same week. This ensures you’re adding value to every person you meet right away. Another upside to making the connection is that you’ll have to listen very closely to what your new acquaintance does and what they need in order to introduce them to the right person in your network.
4. If you ask for advice, take action.
While it’s flattering to be asked for advice, it’s also frustrating when the advice you give isn’t considered good enough to be acted upon. If you’re asking someone for advice or help figuring something out, be sure to act on the advice or clarification immediately. If you don’t, they’ll likely feel you’ve wasted their time and energy and will be disinclined to help you the next time you ask. If you’re asking for advice or any sort of help, be sure to take action right away.
5. Practice strong body language
Most people are so focused on what’s coming out of their mouths that they forget how important the non-verbal cues they’re sending are. Your body language can be just as, if not more, important than what you say during a first (or twentieth) impression. Convey confidence by practicing holding an open stance with your arms relaxed by your sides. Don’t put your hands in your pockets or cross your arms as these can indicate a lack of confidence or defensiveness. Whether you’re standing or sitting, ensure your posture is straight with your shoulders back. Practice maintaining eye contact, whether you’re speaking or listening. Most people find it easier to do when listening than when speaking. Check in on your posture, where your arms are and your level of eye contact regularly during everyday interactions and correct as necessary. With enough practice, your body language will become stronger and more confident.
There are dozens of other tips to be memorable you can try to squeeze into every interaction with every new person you meet but trying to a huge “to do” list of best behaviors can be both exhausting and stifle your natural charm. If you focus on just these five, you’ll leave every person you meet with a clear idea of who you are and a desire to help you, which add up to a very positive first impression.
Amna Shamim is a nomadic writer-for-hire. She specializes in articles on entrepreneurship, social justice and travel and in content marketing for start-ups. Follow her on social media and/or check out her blog for more information.