Three ways to make a perfect first impression.

Three ways to make a perfect first impression.

There is a popular cliche that says that first impressions last a long time and sometimes lasts forever. Well, The good news is that we never run out of opportunities to make first impressions. Think about all the people you meet at networking and industry events, at new jobs, at interviews and client pitches, and at investor presentations and contract negotiations. That’s just part of your professional life.

In this article, we would be looking at three strategies that can help you stand out in making a first impression.

1. Kindness

To make a powerful first impression and forge an emotional connection, make an effort to exude a sense of kindness. This sends signals to the amygdala in our brain (the area responsible for triggering a fight-or-flight response) by positioning us to the other person as someone who does not pose a threat.

When our minds are swiftly assessing whether someone is friend or foe, a perception of genuine kindness and warmth can help immediately establish trust and positive expectations.

If you do the opposite and appear cold and aloof, people may feel disrespected or rejected, which triggers a threat response in their brain. In fact, neuroscience research reveals that rejection hurts, literally. It affects the same areas of the brain that are involved in the processing of physical pain, which can often make us withdraw or lash out in anger.

To project warmth, simply remember to smile. Engage with your eyes and with body language that reflects sincere interest, such as by turning toward the person as opposed to away from them. It’s the simple things that are noticed here, like a thoughtful handshake. Yes, thoughtful. Most people stick out their hand on autopilot, clasping the hand of the other without much thought given to proper position, pressure or duration of contact. Kindness is also evoked by asking questions and follow-up questions that demonstrate genuine interest in others. Sharing something personal about yourself can also increase trust and help others relate to you.

2. Competence

Although competence doesn’t get assessed as quickly as other traits, it is still a factor when someone is initially sizing you up.

One way to demonstrate competence is by appearing confident in your demeanor, tone of voice and openness to engage. But research also reveals that strong reputations, significant achievements and impressive networks can boost belief in your competence, especially in initial encounters.

The challenge is to convey all this without coming across as a braggart. Do speak up, but instead of proclaiming how great you are, tie your achievements to people, organizations and institutions whom the other person may know, trust and respect. Statements such as, “The way we solved these problems at Google ...” or “After I finished my certifications I decided to ...” can signal your achievements and associations without triggering your hearer’s one-liner reaction.

Moreover, display humility and kindness while establishing your competence. This requires a fine balance, to be sure, but it is doable.

Keep in mind that the purpose of exhibiting these qualities is to persuade new acquaintances that you are worthy of their trust. You aren’t there to waste their time, and the encounter could lead to a mutually beneficial relationship.

3. Value

What can you do for me? That question is uppermost in many people’s minds during initial encounters, but do not try to demonstrate your value to others as if you were making a generic elevator pitch. Instead of a blunt attempt to sell yourself, focus on how you can illustrate your unique value to that specific person, team or organization.

You can do this by being very clear about what it is that you do that conveys a tangible benefit to others. You may be likable but that does not matter if no one understands your purpose. Instead of just spitting out your name and job title when you meet someone, offer a simple explanation of what that means in terms of outcomes.

For example, when I’d introduce myself as an “executive coach” I’d often get responses such as, “Oh, like a life coach?” or, “Is that like a management consultant?” Clearly, there was no value in simply stating my profession, as many people aren't quite clear what my work as an executive coach entails and how someone might benefit. So I would add, “I help organizational leaders overcome blind spots and change behaviours so they can have a bigger impact at work and have more engaged employees.”

This is a brief statement, but it explains clearly the value of my work for my clients and their organizations. Moreover, a statement like this makes it easy for a person to imagine what you could do for them