The old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. But I say, “It’s not what you know, it’s how you’re perceived”.
The relationships we build in our career and business are incredibly important. They feed our sense of connection and fulfilment in our work, but they also play a critical role in opening up opportunities for our success. So networking and relationship building are a top priority for anyone serious about creating and living their dream as far as career and business goes.
When you first meet someone, they consciously or subconsciously make an assessment of you in less than 30 seconds. The relationship you have with that person going forward is being built off that initial instantaneous impression you've made.
It’s not difficult to create a positive first impression. In fact, it’s quite effortless if you know the key factors that contribute to how the other person perceives you on first meeting.
Too often people are not aware of how they come across, after all… you’re not on the receiving end of yourself! A little self-awareness and conscious decision making to present yourself positively goes a long way to helping your relationships get off to a flying start.
Here are ten simple tips, which when combined together on first meeting someone, are guaranteed to leave a positive impression in their mind.
1. Dress to express
Making a good impression has nothing to do with wearing the latest fashion or expensive, fancy attire. How you dress is part of the expression of who you are. So, dress in a way that represents who you are and allows you to be comfortable.
There is, of course, fine print to the “dress to express” tip. It goes without saying you have to be ‘situation appropriate’ and well groomed to make a good impression – brush your hair, take care of basic hygiene, ensure your clothing is clean and in good repair.
2. Be on time
Nothing says “I care” like being ready to meet someone a few minutes before the scheduled time, or right on time. It tells the person you’re meeting that you’ve planned your time and schedule to fulfil the commitment you've made with them.
On the flip side, nothing says “You’re not important to me” like turning up late! Being late suggests poor time management, forgetfulness, lack of respect and lack of self-awareness, none of which are good for your career or business dealings.
If you are late, a simple and gracious apology is the only way to recover this to ensure a good impression.
3. Stand up
If you are already sitting waiting to meet someone, and they walk in, stand up to greet them.
Standing up has, for centuries, been seen as a mark of respect for the other person. This is not about raising someone above you, or bowing to them as ‘better than you’. It’s a tiny, subtle and subconscious act that says, “I respect you”. Think about it… young people stand to make way for elderly people (respect for elders), a chivalrous man might stand to greet their date (respect for the woman), peasants would stand for the King and Queen walking into the room (respect for their rank/status), and when a newly married Bride and Groom walk down the aisle the wedding guests stand to applaud them.
Make the people you are building relationships with feel important, like they matter to you, because they do, otherwise you wouldn't be there!
4. Make eye contact
Look the person in the eye. It shows you’re confident and it allows for a personal connection to form.
Remember – they say that “the eye is the window to the soul” so if you want to form a genuine relationship with the person, get to know them by really ‘seeing’ them.
Avoiding eye contact comes across as lacking in self-belief and confidence, or worse, evasive, disinterested or dodgy!
Please smile! A smile says a thousand words, and that is not a cliché, it’s true. Exactly what sort of words does it say? Well, it says “I’m happy. I’m delighted to meet you. Being here with you is of real interest to me. I’m a vibrant person. I’m positive. I’m a warm and open person”.
Seriousness is a deadly virus that steals the fun away from life. Particularly in relation to career and business, it’s important to remember that people are people, not robots, and others want to know you as a person, not a set of statistics, offerings, or resources.
The best relationships are built off personal connection, and nothing creates a personal connection quite like a big warm smile.
6. Shake hands
In many countries and cultures, shaking hands is a standard way to greet others in the setting of career and business. Take the initiative and offer your hand when greeting someone. It’s an invitation for instant personal, physical connection and that small intention and action on your part helps to form the beginning of a new relationship.
7. Say their name
When you first greet someone, with whatever language and introductory statement is appropriate, include their name. When you say their name, you tell them that you know who they are, you vocalise your interest in them and you consolidate the connection.
8. Thank them
No matter what the career or business setting or situation, there is nothing more self-aware, generous and polite than thanking someone. It might be that you are thanking them for the opportunity of meeting, it might be thanking them for taking the time to see you, it might be thanking them for some other related reason that has led to your having this first engagement.
Breathe. This can’t be underestimated! On first meeting, depending on the situation, many people can be nervous, anxious or uncomfortable. This energy comes across in your body language (e.g. fidgeting, sweating, unable to articulate yourself clearly, nervous laughter). Breathe deeply and slowly to calm any nerves, as this helps to lower your heart rate.
And, remind yourself that the most important thing to do to make a good impression is something you’re already extremely good at…
10. Be yourself
You are awesome. All you need to do is be yourself (something you are the most talented person in the world at doing) and let the other person get to know the real you.
When we become obsessed about looking a certain way, saying the ‘right’ thing, doing the ‘right’ thing, and trying to be what the other person wants us to be or expects us to be, then our brains go into overdrive and there’s a very real risk your head will explode under the pressure!
So, remember that the best relationships are built off genuine, authentic connection between two people when they are both being who they really are and enjoying the level of personal engagement that results.
- Before the meeting – dress to express and be on time.
- In the first 30 seconds of meeting – stand, look the person in the eye, smile, offer a hand shake, greet them with their name and thank them.
- During the rest of the meeting – relax and be yourself.