As the saying goes, a first impression is the most important impression you'll ever make. And you get only one opportunity to make a good one. First dates become second dates or not, business deals are made or broken, and friendships are formed or fail to materialize—everything hinges on that all-important initial meeting. Of course, these days we make initial contacts over e-mail or through social media. It could be months before you ever meet in person. And while that electronic communication shapes an opinion of you, it's the face-to-face interaction that forms a lasting impression. Here's how to give yourself an edge.
Extend your hand for a shake and say your first and last name clearly. The other person should reciprocate and afterwards, repeat their first name back. This helps you remember their name, which always impresses people.
A natural, warm smile signifies confidence and will put both you and the other person at ease. But don't go overboard—a permasmile can seem insincere and smarmy.
Before speaking, discreetly breathe in through your nose, hold it for a moment, and then exhale through your mouth. When people are nervous, they tend to speak more quickly. Purposely slow down. A deliberate tone of voice and well-placed pauses will emphasize the points you want to make.
Maintaining eye contact is a given, but that's not all there is. "When your face is neutral, it indicates that you're not engaged," says Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent and author. "Just a slight head tilt powerfully conveys the message that you're listening and a quick eyebrow arch is another small but effective gesture that communicates curiosity."
A lot of people have a habit of imparting endless information during a first encounter, according to executive coach Ann Demarais. Don't be afraid to stop and listen. "People will remember how you made them feel about themselves more than anything else," she says. "It's just making that person feel comfortable around you and you'll make a great impression."