How to make a good first impression in business?
Whether you are giving a presentation, selling a product or interviewing for a job, making a good first impression is extremely important when you are doing business. Due to the way the human brain functions, it’s very difficult to change the first impression, so you need to get it right the first time around. Most of us know how to behave when we meet people for the first time, but if you have a job where you constantly meet new people you might not actively think about the impression you are making, and so you might not be making the best one possible. When it comes to making a good impression in business I recommend you do the following:
1. Be on time
The concept of time varies drastically across cultures, in some countries it is common to start a meeting 15-30 minutes late. Nevertheless, you should always be on time for scheduled appointments. Plan to arrive at meetings early so that you have a buffer if something unexpected happens along the way. If you are running late, call or send a text message to the person to let him or her know that you won’t make it in time for your appointment. Apologize sincerely when you arrive (without making up an excuse) and remain professional. Don’t overcompensate for your tardiness. It’s better to follow up with a written excuse in an email after the meeting rather than repeating your apology throughout the meeting.
2. Think through your attire
Your clothing, hair-style, make-up, jewelry, shoes, watch, handbag- everything that makes up the total “picture” of you contributes to the first impression someone gets of you. You should carefully select an attire that is appropriate for the meeting. If you are unsure about your look, ask someone you know for advice and feedback on your selected outfit. Try to match the dress code of the person you are meeting with, so for instance, if you have a meeting with someone who works in the financial sector, you should probably wear a suit and tie (if you are a man).
3. Greet with confidence
Greeting etiquette also varies across cultures, in some you bow, in some, you kiss on the cheek and in some you rub noses. In most western cultures you greet someone you are meeting for the first time by shaking hands. When you shake someone’s hand you should look the person into the eyes and shake their hand with a firm grip. It can sound very simple, but there actually is a lot more to it than you think. Manager-tools have dedicated a full podcast episode on how to shake hands. Introduce yourself by saying your full name loud and clear and listen carefully to the other person’s name in order to remember it. Add a polite greeting phase appropriate for the situation like, “It’s a pleasure to meet you”, or “thank you for inviting me”.
4. Be attentive
Focus your full attention on the person you are meeting for the first time. Make eye contact, smile and listen actively to the other person. If you want to learn more about active listening you can read the blog, “Active listening – key steps to success. “Be enthusiastic and positive. Turn off your mobile phone and other devices that might distract you. If the first thing you do when you meet someone for the first time, is taking another call or check your email on your phone, you are surely eliminating all chances of receiving a good first impression.
5. Mind your posture
Our body language says more about us than the actual words that come out of our mouth. Mind your posture, stand straight, don’t slouch, sit properly and rest your arms in a comfortable position (without folding them as this might come across as hostile). If you are nervous you might fidget, play with your hair or a piece of clothing. Try to relax and think about breathing properly. If you are at ease you will make the other person more comfortable around you.
You shouldn’t change who you are
If you follow these five recommendations you‘ll stand a very good chance of receiving a good first impression. With that said, sometimes it still won’t be enough. The person you are meeting with might think you have a horrible hairstyle and judge you right away, or you might remind the person of someone they’ve previously had a bad experience with. You shouldn’t change who you are and you can’t win them all. But I’m sure that if stay true to yourself and follow this advice, you will win the hearts of those you really care to do business with!
(If you have difficulties reading this article, you can access the full article in pdf here)