Making the Right First Impression

Maybe you’re not exactly shy, but speaking up at work, raising your hand at your grade school kids’ HSA meeting or even going into a cocktail party with new people can be intimidating. We all know that first impressions matter, and the bad news is, according to one statistic, it only takes seven seconds to make a first impression. Seven seconds℄or most of us, it takes longer than that just to introduce ourselves. The reality is that while you are talking, people are paying attention and already forming an opinion of you. The better news is while first impressions matter, so do second and third and fourth, and the more you prepare and actually put your best foot (or smile) forward, the easier it will become—promise. So take a few deep breaths, be mindful of the moment and step in. Here are some ideas and tips for making a killer impression the first time.

1. Smile

A smile is so simple to do yet something we often forget, especially if we’re self-conscious or nervous. According to one study, most people think a smile is the most memorable feature after meeting someone, even more so than what they say. By smiling, you’re showing someone you are both happy to meet them and comfortable around them.

2. Go Beyond “Hi”

People love to talk about themselves, so using phrases like ‘It’s great meeting you. Where are you from?” or “Wonderful to meet you. Isn’t this a great event?” can go a long way toward bridging a simple intro into a full-blown conversation. Use their name immediately upon meeting and then repeat it a few times in conversation; even introducing them to others will help make them feel you are interested. And who knows, a simple “Where did you go to high school?” could lead to a great connection: “My college roommate went there too!”

3. Make Eye Contact

Behind a handshake and a smile, eye contact is the third, and arguably, the most important part of making a solid impression. Why? Simply put , it shows you truly want to speak with them. Think of how unappealing it is talking to someone when they are constantly looking over your shoulder at what else is going on in the room. When someone looks you in the eye, it shows they’re confident, engaged and interested. 

4. Watch the Body Language

Did you know that body language accounts for 93 percent of a message? Researchers have found it is not what you say but how you say it that is the key to making a positive impression. This includes everything from posture and vocal tone to hand gestures and the way you are angling your hips. By standing up straight and angling your hips open, you will seem more relaxed and open to conversation.

5. Don’t Overthink It

Being prepared is important, but too much overthinking can come across as distracting and work against you. Worrying too much about making the right impression can take away from engaging in conversation and letting someone get to know you. The most important thing is to simply be yourself! The more open, friendly and down to earth you can be, the better the impression you will make. And don’t forget to smile!

Kathryn Lancioni is the founder of Presenting Perfection, LLC, a communications consultancy based in Ridgewood, which focuses on empowering individuals of all ages to discover and develop their personal narrative through personal branding, public speaking and executive coaching.

“A smile is so simple to do yet something we often forget.”