Whether you’re a social being who loves meeting new people, or someone who’s more reflective and private, we all need to make a good first impression. Why? Because first impressions are key to building lasting trust. And trust as we know, is the cornerstone to doing good business.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy says that when we meet someone new, our natural tendency is to want to show them how strong and competent we are. In reality, what people are really looking for is how warm and trustworthy we might be.
Most of what you need to make a good first impression is common sense. But these simple and practical tips and techniques will show you how to come across as your true, trustworthy and confident self.
1. Do your homework
Whether it’s for an interview, networking event or client meeting, your most important asset and confidence-boosting technique (besides the power pose, but we’ll get to that later) is to be prepared. Identify the people you’d like to meet and look them up online. Get an understanding of who they are, their background, what they’re looking for and if you have anything in common. It gives you something to talk about and shows you have an interest in them. An added bonus is that you’ll get to see what they look like, so when you walk into the room, you have the edge.
2. Dress appropriately
Granted, there is a trend toward a relaxed dress code, which is why you’ll stand out if you dress for the position you want, not the one you have. Think about this: how would you dress if you were the best in your industry? Then make sure your hair, makeup, suit and shoes match that. Consider too that conservative professions like banking have a different dress code to more creative professions such as marketing or advertising. And lastly – the more flesh on show, the more credibility you lose, and this includes men in short sleeves. For those who say how you dress shouldn’t matter, you might be right, but ask yourself, do you really want to work ten times harder to prove your worth?
3. Take control of your nerves
If you’re nervous about your meeting, nothing beats deep breathing to still that beating heart. To help anchor your voice – so that you sound rich, smooth and mellow, not shaky and high-pitched – stage artists suggest these pre-performance tricks: hum, with a low, consistent quality; sing along to your favourite song; and practice bringing your voice pitch down, not up, at the end of each sentence, which will give you more credibility. And one last tip from Amy Cuddy, is to do the power pose. Legs shoulder width apart and arms in a V-position above your head give you the feeling of victory. Find a quiet space to do this and you’ll trick your brain into believing you’re super-confident and successful.
4. Be on time
Showing up late is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Not only is it arrogant and disrespectful, it’s just plain rude. If you have been delayed, let the person you’re meeting know as soon as possible that you’re going to be late, so that they can compensate for it. Texting is okay, but a call is better. Equally important, if you’re more than 5 minutes early – wait outside. The person you’re meeting might be busy, and knowing you’re waiting puts extra pressure on them. Not only that, but anything earlier might indicate that a) you have nothing else to do or b) you’re over-keen.