Be it a business meeting, a college freshers’ dinner, a job interview or even a semi-formal gathering with friends and acquaintances, first impressions matter. They determine the path for your future with people and a good first impression can make things extremely easy. However, there is a thin line between creating a good first impression and creating a lasting first impression. The distinction is made on the basis of impact, wherein the former is an opinion people might form about you but which will elapse into oblivion the moment the meeting ends. The latter on the other hand, is an opinion people form which remains with them for a long time to come. They remember you based on the first impression they had of you – good or bad – and they come to identify you. Now even though first impressions can be bad, we assume you’re reading this because you want to make a good first impression that lasts, one that is more impactful on the people around you. Here are 7 tips on making a lasting first impression on people:
The reason why appearance is given so much importance when it comes to first impressions is because even before people get a chance to interact with you in person, a more subtle interaction already starts the moment they look at you. Human beings are visual creatures by nature and they instantly notice what a person is wearing before anything else. This habit is more amplified in men, than in women. This is why the first mantra for first impressions is to dress for success. What you wear, how you wear it, and how you carry yourself in it matters a lot. Research has found that a person forms an opinion of you within 7 to 17 seconds of meeting you, 55% of it depending on your physical appearance. (source: businessinsider.com)
It’s a good idea to keep the occasion, the audience, the place and even the weather into account when you dress. Be subtle in your clothing on the first meeting and don’t go over the top with colors and accessories. A simple combination of white and black can do wonders in itself – loud style statements take a person’s attention away from your skills and your personality that goes beyond your clothing.
Present yourself with confidence when you meet someone for the first time, and the best way to do this is to be yourself. Nervousness and tension are natural at crucial first meetings such as interviews, and if you find yourself being overtly nervous, use some relaxation techniques to calm yourself. It is extremely important to present yourself as you really are, not pretending to be someone who you think they will like. The real you is what a person wants to see on meeting you because if they are to get to know the real you at a later date it will be a disappointing experience.
Do things that calm you, take a jog, listen to some music, or talk to a friend before a crucial first meeting such as an interview. If the gathering is semi-formal or informal where you don’t know anybody too well, smile and start talking to people. Be confident about yourself and be interested in what others have to say. You will come across as not only a genuine person, but one who likes to listen to others as well.
If it’s a formal event or meeting you’re headed to, plan your day well in advance. Crucial things like travel must be in order to prevent you from being late. A lack of respect for time, both the other person’s and yours can ruin your first impression instantly. Chances are the person will remember you as the interviewee or the guest who came late – forgetting all about your skills and qualifications you wished to present to them. Even if it is an informal event, the fact that you arrived on time gives you a chance to mingle with others easily without awkward explanations about your tardiness. People like those who appreciate the fact that others are busy, and who value whatever time someone has taken out for them. If you’re going for an important meeting, it’s best to plan such that you arrive 15 minutes early – this will give you a chance to equate you with your surroundings, collect your thoughts and prevent last minute anxiety.
Pay Attention to Names
When you meet people and get introduce to them, pay special attention to their names. Although in a small group it is easy to just talk to a person without saying their name, if you do use someone’s name often in a conversation it gives them the feeling that you have been paying attention. They will instantly like you for your close attention to details such as names and will feel more connected to you as the meeting progresses. Phrases like “How was your vacation, Nancy?” or “I like that idea, Fred” can intelligently draw a person’s attention and help you in being an active part of the group. By using names, you are making conversations more personal, and this is a quality which never fails to impress others. Making the effort to remember someone’s name comes across as a positive social habit.
Monitor Your Tone
Research suggests that 38% of an individual’s first impression is determined by the tone of their voice. (source: businessinsider.com).
People often remember others by the tone of voice in which they talk to them. A brash, loud tone comes across as undesirable and can create dislike in a person. Similarly, if a person is too whiny, or even condescending at the first meeting, he/she is most likely to ruin their first impressions among others around them. Adjusting your tone of voice according to your audience is difficult – you might want to strike the perfect balance between composed and enthusiastic, determined and insecure, confident and grounded. This comes with practice, so start paying attention to your tone when you have conversations with others and work on developing the tone you wish to project in future.
Body Language Matters
Your body language can speak louder than your words. Sometimes you yourself are unaware of the body posture you’re maintaining in front of someone, which might be contradictory to the words you are using in conversation. While you might be trying to sound composed while talking, actions such cracking your knuckles, constant foot tapping or lack of eye contact might suggest otherwise. Pay attention the way you sit, stand, smile and shake hands with people because these non-verbal cues can have more impact on your first impression. People can easily pick up such cues from another person and decide if they like the person or not. Work on a good body posture that always has the essential elements of a nice and welcoming smile and eye contact. Try to be at ease, while still maintaining a strong posture. Folding your arms in front of your chest or slouching against something can come give the impression of being uninterested or careless.
Before you meet someone for the first time, try and gather as much information about them or the institution they work for. A basic knowledge of another person’s life in a formal setting begins with their name and their place of work. Knowing these details can help you start a conversation and connect better. Not just about people, if you’re going for an interview, research about the place well and make sure you use this information at crucial moments where it can create an impact. If you’re meeting someone for work related purposes, get the required materials you will need – print resumes, documents, projects/presentations, transcripts, letters, case studies etc. and organize them into a document holder. Having a backup in the form of a hardcopy can be helpful in case your laptop or computer fails you at the crucial moment. Use social media to gather professional information about a person, and make it a point to go through a company or college’s website before you proceed with a meeting.