- Published on 16 May 2014
It can take just a quick glance, and no more than seven seconds, for someone to evaluate you when you meet for the first time. Opinions are formed based on appearance, body language, demeanour, mannerisms and dress. These first impressions can be nearly impossible to reverse. Mike Yates, coach and regular contributor to Audio Infos United Kingdom, provides some guidance on how to make a great first impression.
When you are meeting with a client – or prospective client, the first impression you give can literally make or break the deal. It normally takes an average of just seven seconds for a person to make a judgment about you based on your initial meeting. If you don’t give a good impression, the chances are you won’t have a successful outcome. However if you do make a great first impression, people are going to take you more seriously, whether that’s a potential client or other business acquaintance. So how do people make their first judgment and what you can do to be in control of the results? Here are some ideas on making a lasting first impression.
How do people form their initial opinions?
When you meet someone face-to-face, 93% of how you are judged is based on non-verbal information i.e. your appearance and your body language. Only 7% is influenced by the words that you speak. However when your initial contact is on the phone, 70% of perception of you is based on your tone of voice with 30% being on the words that you use. So it’s not so much what you say - it’s very much more about the way that you say it.
Make your first words count
Although research shows that your words make up a mere 7% of what people think of you, always plan ahead. Giving some form of thank you when you meet a client or potential contact counts immensely. It could be as simple as “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me today.” People will always appreciate you more when you appreciate them.
Refer to people by their name
When meeting with someone, use the other person’s name in conversation within your first few words and the first seven seconds and you are sending a message that means you value that person and are focused on them. Nothing gets other people’s attention as effectively as calling them by name.
Keep your hair tidy
This may sound daft but people really do notice your hair and face first!! Leaving a much-needed trim and tidy up may cost you in the long run. Being untidy or unkempt says everything about professionalism in business.
People will also look to your feet. A pair of poorly maintained shoes may prompt the question as to whether you pay attention to other details, especially in a business setting. Also appropriate footwear that matches your dress and the type of event you are going to. Shoes are one of the first things people will see and a judgement is instantaneous.
Your energy levels
Studies show that people who walk 10-20% faster than others are viewed as more important and energetic. Picking up your pace and walking with a purpose will increase people’s perceptions of you.
Most have experienced ‘the limp’ handshake, the ‘bone crusher’ and a handshake that just seem sincere. Simple rules here: make complete contact with the other person’s hand and give a slight squeeze that matches the pressure of the other person.
Be congruent with your body language
Most importantly from all of the above is that we are congruent. A simple smile or just a friendly expression informs the other person that you are pleased to be with them. Good eye contact informs them that you are paying attention and are genuinely interested in them. Gently leaning forwards toward a client shows engagement and involvement in the conversation. Effective communicators plan and practice giving a great impression with potential clients. This may be when arranging a meeting, preparation for a meeting and your presentation. In any situation you can get one step closer to getting what you want by making the right first impression in the first seven seconds.
Mike Yates, Business Growth Specialist, Coach, Speaker and Author.
Photo: © Andre van der Veen - Fotolia.com