How to Make a Great First Impression

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” – Author Unknown

As the old saying goes, first impressions are incredibly important. Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov conducted experiments that show that it only takes 1/10 of a second to form a judgment about someone else. That is an incredibly short window of time. To ensure that you are starting off on the right foot with a businessperson that you need to impress, below are tips to ensure that the hour after the 1/10 of a second expires allows you to wow her even further. For clarity’s sake, the recommendations are focused on meetings with businessmen and women where you have reasonable time to prepare.

1. Educate Yourself About the Other Person – While a student at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, the Career Management Center suggested that we collect up to five pages of content about our target company, or in this case, person. You could start by reviewing the individual’s LinkedIn profile. If you share connections with the person, contact your shared connections and ask for advice or further information. You can search the web for additional news articles, blog posts, or editorial stories. After you have collected the five pages, form a mental image of the person and attempt to visualize your first interaction with her. Be very specific and ensure that you visualize numbers two, three, and four below happening.

2. Be on Time – Every person that you meet has a different concept of time and many fall in line with their culture’s mores. Americans have developed such fast-paced lives that nearly every minute of the day counts, making it that much more important to not be late. To be respectful of others’ time, ensure that you: fly to your destination the night before an early morning meeting; allow extra time on busy highways for traffic delays; and arrive at least 15 minutes early. When you arrive, take a few extra minutes to get to know the receptionist and be sure to put your mobile device on vibrate or turn it off.

3. Present Yourself Well – If a picture is worth 1,000 words, what does the picture of you look like? Gentlemen – did you get a haircut, shave, and have your suit free of lint and wrinkles? Ladies – is your hair appropriately styled, your jewelry conservative, and your suit free of lint and wrinkles? I encourage you to begin with a firm and sincere handshake, make eye contact, and to stand up straight (pinch your shoulder blades together) to set a strong foundation. Remember, 93% of human communication is non-verbal, so don’t over-analyze any one statement. What is being said verbally is a fraction of what is actually being “said”.

4. Remain Positive – Regardless of what is being said or how you think the meeting is going, remain positive. Exude confidence, be attentive, be courteous, and use her name repeatedly. If adversity is making its way into the meeting, resilience in character will score huge points. No matter what is said or done, remain positive. Your character will not be compromised and she’ll remember that about you for years to come.

5. Follow Up – After the meeting has finished, it behooves you to show appreciation for her time. You are more than welcome to send an email thanking her for meeting with you, but can you find another distinctive way to do it as well? Could you send a hand-written card? Yes. Could you record and email a brief video of yourself thanking her? Sure. If you learned something unique about her, i.e. that she is an avid tennis player, find a way to but and send tickets to a local ATP event. Whatever it may be, make sure that it shows you listened and that you were willing to take the time to go above and beyond.

Although it only takes the human mind 1/10 of a second to pass judgment on someone, you have the ability to either further the good perception or turn around a slightly negative perception throughout the rest of your meeting. The five ideas above will certainly start you down the right path. Through active listening and the persistent asking of questions, you can further cement that you are humble and interested more in the other person than in talking about yourself.

With concerted effort before the meeting, I believe that making a positive first impression could lead to a mutually prosperous relationship for months or years to come.