From Phil: What follows is a guest post from my friend Kevin Eikenberry, author of the insightful new book From Bud to Boss (along with Guy Harris). If anyone is great at making an amazing first impression, it’s Kevin. My first “meeting” with him was when he sent me a personally autographed copy of his book, along with a personal note to let me know how much he was looking forward to meeting me in person. Though it took a few years, when we finally did meet (for a 6 AM breakfast), he didn’t disappoint and showed up for our meeting in a snappy suit and matching suspenders, and he followed ALL his suggestions to the T. Enough from me. Enjoy the article!
We all meet new people, in all phases of our lives. In some of those situations we may not be consciously thinking about the importance of making a good first impression; however, conscious or not, we are always making an impression.
Sometimes – be it the person we are meeting, the situation we are in or just that we are more consciously aware – we want to more than just make an impression, we want to make a great one.
The good news is there are things you can do to make great first impressions happen regularly and almost predictably. The surprising news is these suggestions may not be all the things you have thought or been taught.
Remember, since the impression is actually formed by the other person, in the end, what they ultimately think is out of your control.
Even so, using these ideas will give you a greater chance to create impressions that lead to further conversations, goodwill, new relationships, additional business, greater job and life satisfaction and greater success.
With those benefits in mind, let’s get on with the suggestions!
Relax. This comes first, especially if the situation is one where you feel you need to make a great first impression. You want the new client, you want the job, you want the date – whatever the situation is, take the pressure off of yourself! Relax and just be yourself. Think about it, you can tell when people are anxious or nervous, right? Does it make you more attracted to them? Your answer is the same as everyone else’s. Relax.
Smile! Few things are more attractive than a real smile – it doesn’t matter if you are young or old, smiles make a difference. Whether you’ve spent thousands on your pearly whites doesn’t matter. Let people know you are happy to meet them before a word is said. The best way to do that is with a smile. The old line that “smiles increase your face value” is an old line because it’s true.
Use a good handshake. While I grew up taking this for granted, and have written about it in more detail, this one simply can’t be overlooked. A good handshake says things about you that words never can. Learn to give a great handshake. Practice it. Make it your habit.
Make eye contact. In most parts of the world, this is incredibly important. Everyone has heard it, everyone “knows” it, but far too many people do it. This actually is good news for you – because when you do make eye contact consistently – you will stand out.
Be genuine and real. Be . . . yourself. Be . . . natural. After all, you want their impression to be of who you really are not some mask you have created, right? Enough said.
Be interested, not interesting. This turn of words is very powerful. Often making a great first impression is equated with impressing people. While that is true, most think about impressing people as being about showing what we know, who we know or what we’ve done. You will make a more powerful and lasting impression when you don’t try so hard. Which brings me to . . .
Ask more, say less. You will show your interest in the other person by asking more questions and talking less. When you ask you are signaling your interest. Asking helps you learn about the other person, and who doesn’t like it when people want to know more about them?
Be confident. Being confident coupled with being relaxed leads to a projected self-assurance that is both interesting and attractive. Don’t try too hard, and don’t take confidence as your lone tip (notice this doesn’t say over-confident or cocky) – but when coupled with the other ideas on this list you will not only be more confident, but your confidence will work well.
Be present. Being present means not looking for the next hand to shake, not thinking about your own issues or deciding how to move on. It is about being with the person you are meeting, for however long you are engaged with them in conversation. Many of the other tips on this list will happen naturally when you are truly in the moment with the person.
Remember it isn’t about you. Make the encounter as much about the other person as possible, and you will make great first impressions most of the time. If you are especially nervous in networking situations or if you are reading these tips before an especially important meeting, remember this tip and apply it. It is all about the other person. As paradoxical as it may seem, making a good impression will come easiest when you focus not on yourself, but on the other person.
What’s YOUR best tip for making a great first impression?
About the author: Kevin Eikenberry is a author, speaker, trainer, consultant, and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group . His new book, co-authored with Guy Harris, From Bud to Boss – Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership (http://FromBudtoBoss.com) publishes TODAY (February 15th, 2011) and the Free Bud to Boss Community is open and available now!