Seven seconds or less. That’s all the time you have to make a first impression. From studies
First impressions are strongly held, too, underscoring the importance of making a positive one.
1. BE YOURSELF
“Playing a character on TV is totally different from being the best and brightest version of yourself,” says Alexa Fischer, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, actress in television shows
Fischer says people should be aware of their “default face” and the message it sends. Is it a sour
2. NO NEGATIVITY
Maybe you’re anxious about meeting a potential new customer. Whatever the origin of negative
Relieve negative thoughts by taking long, deliberate breaths or listening to relaxing music.
3. NOTICE NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION
Two people can exchange up to 10,000 nonverbal cues in less than one minute, according
Wood, who has studied first impressions and body language for 33 years, says the limbic
Wood says people can learn to be skillful at both sending and reading body language. She
Her tips, based in science, include planting your feet firmly on the ground with weight evenly
4. MATCH THEIR VOICE
Listen to your customers’ “hello,” then match the tone, speaking rate and volume. Don’t go
“Research says if you do that, then to them you sound like a friend – you sound safe,” says Wood. “That’s why we don’t like pushy or over-the-top salespeople because they’re not naturally in our rhythm.”
Wood studied smiling for the dental industry and found it actually changes the mechanics of your voice. “Smiling relaxes and lengthens your vocal chords so your voice has a more mellow and warm quality to it,” she says.
Even when a first impression occurs by phone, smiling still makes a difference. Also, don’t rush
“When you make a sales call, you should listen very intently to how they answer the phone,”
5. GET FEEDBACK
How do you know how you come across? Ann Demarais, who holds a Ph.D. in Psychology
A good time to pay attention to how you present yourself to new people is in more challenging
Just like trying to learn a new golf swing, it’s hard to make many changes at once. So pick one
6. LEAD WITH THE POSITIVE
Research shows that if you start a meeting by complaining about the jerk who stole your
“Whenever you speak positively or passionately about other people or things, those traits get
So begin with the positive and leave challenging subjects for later. Thankfully, if there
It’s a like a social gift to put others in a better mood rather than being a downer. It’s also key
“Making a good first impression is about being socially generous,” says Demarais. “It’s
7. DRESS FOR SUCCESS
“With first impressions, 55% is based on your visual, your clothing and your body language,”
Dress appropriately for the type of company and level of person. For example, you might
“You could deny that clothing counts, but it’s so impactful,” adds Usherof. As such, when
She recommends using caution in showing a lot of piercings and tattoos. “People that are really
Today, business people often check each other out online before they meet in person. So, no
Also, dress needs to be consistent. Usherof says you can’t show up looking great for the first
8. SMALL TALK LEADS TO BIG TALK
“Your ability to really engage people with small talk, just for a few seconds, and the warmth of
“Try to make that little small talk without being invasive, to relax the person,” she says. Practicing what she calls “host behavior” also helps with small talk. “Imagine they’re coming into your home and you’ve never met them. How would you welcome them? How would you make them feel important?”
Begin the meeting trying to truly connect. Be polite. Ask where they’d like you to sit. Look
Reiterating a point often made in business articles, “People do business with people they like
9. EXPECT THE BEST
Even the most confident-seeming people feel self-doubt in meeting new people. So remember
While most people practice podium speeches, they may not prepare for meetings. Demarais
Play your answer into a recorder to make sure you came across in an upbeat and confident
10. BE PRESENT
After you’ve done your homework, researched the customer’s business and practiced your pitch,
“I’m a huge fan of letting go after you’ve done the proper preparation,” says Fischer “Then, just
One way to get present is to really see your world. Look around and notice the color of the
“Focus on them rather than yourself,” says Wood. “Don’t think about the next thing you’re
Susan Thomas Springer is an ORbased contributor to Advantages.
When you need a second chance
Despite your best efforts, less-than-stellar first impressions happen. How can you fix that? Roz
• Be direct. Tell the person that you may have misrepresented yourself and that you’d like to
• Be your own best PR person. Find ways to demonstrate your value. It’s not about chest
• Recognize it will take time and many positive encounters to erase a bad one. Be patient and
Learn the right way to shake hands so you don’t miss this important connection.
“The handshake is equal to three hours of face-to-face interaction in its ability to establish
• Start early. Wood recommends putting out your hand when you are five to six feet away to show your intention.
• Get good palm contact. With fingers together, scoop down and up into the web of the hand
• Match their energy in strength and grip.
• Shake again when you leave. That signals “game over” or a fresh start so you can return and
Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at www.PattiWood.net. Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at www.snapfirstimpressions.com. Also check out Patti's YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/user/bodylanguageexpert.