How to Create Excellent First Impressions

How long does it take for others to form an impression of you? Google this and you will come up with thousands of answers. One of my favorite studies comes from recent research from Willis and Todorov, suggesting that others form impressions of us in as little as a tenth of a second! By reading physical cues, others make subconscious judgements about trustworthiness, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, intelligence and more.

That is a tough pill to swallow, after all, these impressions are based on factors that we have little control over, such as our facial features and how we walk.

Fortunately, impression management is not entirely outside of our control. The great news for those who love to network at Chamber of Commerce events, is that there are many things that we can do to create positive first impressions.

10 in 10:

Here are 10 things you can do in the first 10 seconds to create great first impressions:

  1. Be Punctual. I love to ask people: Would you rather be 1 hour early or 7 minutes late? It amazes me when people are late. Arriving early allows you to catch up on messages, review agenda items and clear your head before walking into their boardroom. When we arrive on time it shows respect and responsibility.
  1. We should also pay attention to our Visual Appearance. Dress with pride and respect for those you will meet. This means dress appropriately. Ties are expected in Toronto more than Ottawa, however, remember that some events or establishments may expect more formal attire (ie. Rideau Club), whereas other more edgy corporate cultures embrace casual attire. Do your homework and dress with respect for the people you are meeting.
  1. Next, your Body Language will speak volumes even before you say Hello. Use an open posture and avoid hands in pockets.
  1. Use Respectful Language. Avoid negative talk and gossip and maintain eye contact. Thank them where appropriate.
  1. Use a Firm Handshake to show confidence. Avoid the “Limp Biscuit Grip” or “Death Crush”. Seriously, this still happens! Just relax, this is a good chance to show someone that they can trust you.
  1. Be Prepared. Do enough advanced prep to show that the other person matters and is worth the time you invested. Knowing a bit about them and their business shows that you care enough to dig into the details to better understand.
  1. Listen more than speak. Ask open-ended questions and be genuinely interested in their response. Then ask follow-up questions. Keep this up and they will think it was the best conversation they ever had.
  1. Reliable: Always deliver on what you promise and more.
  1. Smile: There is no better way to establish rapport quickly than greeting someone with a warm, authentic smile that demonstrates our caring and appreciation for meeting someone.
  1. Assume Host Behaviour: Be gracious, kind and look for reasons to compliment or thank someone. Put others first and you will find that they respect you more.

Sounds fairly simple, right? Ya, and so does a golf swing. Practice small pieces of this and then build on your impression management skills. It takes a minimum of 21 days to build a new habit. Let me know how this works for you as I love the feedback.

Terry L


Terry is a an Executive Coach with Canada’s premier Leadership Development firm, Envision Group.  Terry’s background is in Organizational Psychology and Sales Leadership. His passion is helping business leaders achieve greater levels of personal and organizational success. 

Categories: Business, Leadership, Marketing & Sales, Networking

Tags: , , ,

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