I’m sure you’ve noticed this: there are some people you meet, and you instantly feel calm, happy, and delighted to meet them. Others you meet, your instant reaction is “this is going to be hard work”.
What’s the difference? What makes a positive first impression versus a negative one?
It’s important in terms of building your network, in particular if you’re going to attend a lot of networking events. But it’s also critical for job interviews.
Let’s take a look.
If you’re going to be introduced to someone, you MUST look them in eye. I don’t care if you are 4′ tall and they are 7′ tall – get that eye contact going.
Making eye contact, at the bare minimum, will make the other person feel like you WANT to meet them. Nothing is more irritating then meeting someone only to find that they don’t even look up from their iPhone.
What it does beyond that though is to convey confidence, engagement and a desire to actually get to know someone. Eye contact is more personal and will instantly increase rapport.
I think we all knew this was coming – have a good handshake.
I’m making a few assumptions here – first, you’re in a culture where handshakes are a normal mode of introducing yourself. Some cultures aren’t, so if you travel a lot then be aware what the norm is.
Your handshake should be firm, brief, and engaging. If your hand gets crushed by the other person 9 times out of 10 – then your handshake is not firm enough.
Don’t hold on to the other person’s hand like you’re about to propose marriage – just a quick handshake is fine, and expected.
What do I mean by engaging? I mean that you are “involved” in the handshake. It sounds a bit silly, I know – but the handshake is not incidental – it’s important – so be “present” for the handshake, not looking somewhere else trying to find what to do next. Much like eye contact, it needs to look like you actually want to meet this person.
I know – this is a killer.
But you HAVE to remember their name. The best way to do this is:
- repeat their name instantly after meeting them;
- say their name a couple of times in the next few minutes, where appropriate;
- introduce them to a couple of other people;
- get their business card, if they’ve got one.
Be At Ease – be Authentically You
The people who come across as weirdos that you never want to hang around with again are those who seem like they are nervous, awkward, and difficult to speak with.
Frequently this is because people don’t want to be themselves. They don’t want to talk about what they are actually interested in, they don’t feel like they can speak the way they normally do, and they don’t think that they can behave the way they are naturally inclined to.
With rare exceptions, those people are making a bad decision.
Staying yourself is, by far, the best way to ensure that you make a good impression. If you are wildly out the end of the “normal spectrum” in some way, then this might not be true – but for most of you, it is.
I respect that some people are naturally more outgoing than others – but that’s not what confidence is about. It’s not about speaking loudly, being the “life of the party”, or anything connected with being an extrovert.
Confidence is about being comfortable in your own skin.
If you are being authentic, then this should come fairly naturally.
Confidence, without arrogance, will make a far better first impression. Especially for a lawyer who is looking to build trust.
If you’re meeting someone for the first time, do you want them to spend the whole time complaining about their job, their employer, the economy, their pay, the government, or anything else? Nope.
Guess what – they don’t want you to do that either.
So stay positive – leave the other participants with a pleasant feeling after speaking with you, not a “blood rising” one.
If you are meeting someone and were already in the middle of a conversation, then bring them up to speed. Not by a treatise on the topic, just a quick sentence – “Bob, we were just talking about knights in shining armour”. That way they have some context for the discussion and don’t need to just figure it out.
If you are the one joining and the person doesn’t follow the above advice – just ask “hey Jane – what are we talking about”. I know it might feel like butting in, but most people don’t mind and it will save you 10 minutes of guesswork.
If it’s just the two of you and you need something to talk about – there is no harm in doing the pleasantries. What’s their name – what do they do – did they have a good day. Most of these questions yield pretty standard answers, but at least it gets the conversation going.
If you want to mix things up, you can always throw them something from the news of the day – “did you see that X said Y today? what do you think?”.
Meeting People Gets Easier
You’ll have seen that most of the 7 tips about making a good first impression about are fairly straightforward – but if you’re been around a while, you’ll also see that many people don’t do them.
Try to incorporate these into your next networking function, and you’ll find the difference tangible in terms of the impact that you will have on others that you meet.