Your One Chance To A Great First Impression
Have you ever been to a networking event and met someone for the first time for just a few seconds and walked away with a great first impression of that person?
In the many various jobs I’ve had there were a few where I got hired instantly. One of those positions was working in executive security. It was one of the most challenging jobs I ever had. To get hired you had to make a positive first impression.
After spending time with corporate executives and stars of the stage and screen, I learned what they did differently from everyone else. The subtle differences these people do to make a positive impression on a new person they meet.
What I’m going to reveal to you here are my six tips on how to impress anyone you meet. These come from my experience of studying highly successful people, talking to thousands of people, and my studies in different fields of human behavior.
These tips go beyond the normal firm handshake, body language, genuine smile, and making eye contact. While that stuff does matter, it is just the tip to making a killer first impression.
1. Beyond Body Language – First Impressions Matter
People are more than your first impression. They have passions, hobbies, and depths of knowledge that go further than your initial impression of the person.
When people first meet they will usually start with small talk to get the conversation going. Most people will ask simple questions such as “How are things going” or “How is your day so far?” A lot of people give a one-word answer – “Good.” First impressions matter.
We have all heard of leading questions. Something I learned from observing highly successful people is giving what I call a leading answer. These are answers that force a positive response from the person asking the question.
If someone asks me “how are you doing” I don’t say “I’m doing good” or “Okay.” It kills the conversation by forcing the other person to ask another question. That’s a bad first impression. You come across as just another ordinary person in a sea of ordinary people.
To get my best shot of getting off on the right foot I give a genuine smile and witty answer such as “I’m still verticle” or “Challenging, but doable.” My response to the question is unexpected. It usually gets a laugh and a positive reply which allows me to follow up with a story of how my day is really going.
The person who I am meeting for the first time gets a strong first impression that I am different from everyone else.
2. Tell Unforgettable Stories
We have all heard that to make a great impression you need to arrive fifteen minutes early, dress appropriately, shake hands with a firm handshake, and show good manners. As a good rule to follow these do make good first impressions.
But these are thin-slicing as people do make snap judgments when it comes to a good first impression. In a world of fake smiles, small talk that leads nowhere, and over self-assurance, you want to go beyond these to create a great first impression.
The saying is true that you do not get a second chance to make a good first impression. People perceive what they see at that first meeting. Right or wrong that perception is their reality of you.
Go beyond The Basics
I have done a lot of job interviews. I follow all the basic job interview rules that are out there to make a good impression on the interviewer. Show up in business attire, sit straight, making eye contact, etc. Basic first impression stuff everyone else follows.
The initial impressions at a job interview are just like meeting any other person for the first time. People want to know what you bring to the table and how you can help them.
There are a lot of jobs out there where they just need a body. In basic terms, anyone could perform the task without any real training. But, if you are going for a skilled position a negative first impression will be your last impression.
Most of the jobs I have gotten into are not simple to get. They require lots of research, long applications, and multiple interviews. This translates into I had to give a great first impression multiple times.
Go Further and Think Outside The Box
A question most interviewers ask is “What do you do in your free time?” This is also a question people ask on a first date or just meeting for the first time.
To leave a good impression you go beyond just saying “I like making YouTube videos” or “I love to write.” Instead, go into the story and introduce the how and why you developed an interest or came to love the activity. The story may not be interesting to you because you lived it. However, it may be interesting to someone who never had the experience.
At my last interview, the person interviewing me asked me about my most challenging job. I told her my most challenging and rewarding position was screenwriting. It was frustrating because I was limited to the confines of the script or plotline, but rewarding when you see the director’s or producers’ expressions when they read it.
I then went into how I got into screenwriting and a story on a re-write I had to do. We spent the rest of the interview talking about movies. I was hired on the spot.
When meeting someone you want to tell a story about your experience. You don’t need to make things up or embellish, just tell the story about your interests and hobbies. It will be something that the other person will not soon forget.
2. Talk about what you don’t know
No one wants to be around a know-it-all. A know-it-all is annoying.
Something I see often is people emphasizing what they are good at. Or, they steer the conversation towards a topic they know about. Even worse, they one-up to show they know more than you do. Nobody knows everything.
I was providing security for a corporate executive who was doing a television interview. While in the green room the show host came in and went over the questions that would be asked.
Don’t Play Things Safe
The executive mentioned he didn’t know a lot about one of the questions, but it would be fine to ask the question. His reasoning was to show the public he was human and didn’t have all the answers. It was a trait I had previously seen many times. I missed it until that moment of explanation.
On the way back to the office I mentioned it to the executive. He told me he had asked me a similar question during my interview. The answer I gave showed him that I don’t always play things safe and take the easy way out. Instead, I take on challenges or that I’m interested in seeking out new experiences.
Since that time I include this bit of information in the first meeting, I have with someone. It shows you are self-aware, have confidence in your current abilities, and are interested in improving.
To make a good impression talk about areas you want to improve or ambitious goals you want to accomplish. If you don’t know something but are interested in learning that subject, admit that fact. It makes a favorable impression on people.
3. Limit your use of the word “I”
Another common mistake that is made is the overuse of the word “I.” People like to belong to something larger than themselves. They can’t do that if everything is always about you.
Saying “I,” all the time says you are more interested in who wins and who gets credit for something. Nobody wants to be in a relationship or work with a scorekeeper.
The Team Over You
Emphasizing team successes is a rare skill set that makes a huge first impression. It shows your own confidence level, you can work well with others and have respect for others’ achievements.
Paying attention to how often you refer to yourself and to others does create a good first impression. Watch an interview with a celebrity who is well-liked. Then count how many times they refer to themselves and others. The figure will be about 50/50 or point more towards team effort.
It’s fine to highlight your own personal accomplishments, but emphasize team successes over your own.
4. Celebrate your failures
This may seem counterintuitive to a lot of people. However, it does make a favorable first impression in showing your own vulnerability and willingness to become better.
A mistake people often make is showing how often they succeed at something. After all, nobody wants to be seen as a failure. Success is something people like to hear. However, people like to hear how someone got the success more. That is where this tip in making a great first impression comes in.
Think of some of the biggest names you can think of and their life story before they became well known. The stories share and celebrate their failures.
I was once providing security for a pretty big name in Hollywood. We were getting ready to head out to a meeting with her agent and then to a cast party. While getting ready to leave we had a bit of small talk about growing up. That conversation turned to us talking about our worst bad day ever.
She shared how she grew up in a broken home and constantly moved. How she got bullied in school and didn’t have many friends. The argument she had with her mom when she left for Los Angeles. How she had dead-end jobs and got conned by a fake agent. The fake agent story showed me a side of this A-list star I had never seen before.
I not only saw the hurt, but the determination in her body language, facial expressions, and hand gestures. I learned about her three long years of barely making it by and getting constant rejections. I also learned how she took that experience and learned how to move forward from it.
Do You See It or Miss It?
Now when I watch or listen to an interview with a person who has achieved a high level of success I hear at least one failure story. It may be a small recent one. It could be one from long ago. Either way, it makes a great first impression on the host and audience.
The moral of this story is instead of getting discouraged and quitting something share how you became motivated to overcome a project that failed. Share how you pivoted from a failure and applied what you learned to a new project.
These types of stories are the ones that others tend to open up to. They feel more of a connection to you because they have failures in their life as well.
Nobody is perfect, and people don’t want to associate with someone who sees themselves as perfect all the time.
5. Have a vision of the future
One thing I’ve always had is a vision of the future. Granted, it may never happen but it’s something I constantly strive for. I have a vision of my personal life, my relationships, and my professional career.
In my current job as a security officer, I have a vision of what the security department would look like. As the founder of the Girls Ask Guys Show podcast and I Know Cupid dating and relationship coaching service I have a vision there as well.
I have a vision of what my relationship with my girlfriend would look like. I also have a vision of what my personal life would look like.
I go beyond the ordinary or the generally accepted norm. I strive for the exceptional.
Always Have A Vision For Improvement
When asked what the next step is I already have a roadmap worked out in my head on the skills I need to develop and what needs to happen to advance the department, my business, relationships, or personal life.
Just to be clear, I don’t go into my boss’s office and pitch a total departmental makeover. I also don’t go up to my girlfriend and tell her what we, or she, need to do to feel more connected or to deepen our relationship.
The point is to show that I have a vision and direction of where I would like to be in a year or several years from now. It’s my own personal objective and how I see my role within the organization or relationship. Context matters when talking about the future.
Setup To Be A Leader
People want to know and be around someone who is looking to become better than they already are. Everyone has something they can become better at. Recognizing this is a sign that you are aware of your own flaws and limitations.
Sharing this with someone and how you plan to accomplish your future vision is something people tend to remember for a long time. When it comes to a good first impression you really can’t go wrong with sharing a future vision.
Some people may surprise you and want to help you accomplish your vision. Research shows that people want to belong to something larger than they are. If their first impression of you is someone they can respect, then they may be willing to follow you.
6. Ambition and Energy
If you have read this far, congratulations. You have some specifics on how to make a killer first impression. But, this sixth part is the real secret.
If you look over each of the areas you will see they all fall into one of two categories. If you read my article on the character traits guys look for in a girlfriend you also see many of those traits fall into the same two categories of ambition or energy.
In the beginning, I said I spent time with corporate executives and stars. I learned a lot about first impressions by watching others and studying what they did differently from everyone else.
It’s in the details
I paid attention to how they dressed for a meeting. The confidence level in their voice during a conversation. The eye contact and body language they use to create a positive atmosphere around them.
Whether it was the first meeting or the 100th meeting didn’t matter. It was treated as though they were walking to make a first impression on that person. They had a confidence level that by the end of that meeting they would have unlimited access to that person’s world.
The more I watched the more I learned. I took a look at my own life and saw where I can use these in my future interactions. I adopted these subtle differences into my own life. I started with how I dress. Then my body language. Then my eye contact. Before long I started to realize I was making a great first impression with lots of people.
What do you see?
When you watch a president of a multi-billion dollar corporation or an A-list movie star what do you see?
Do you see just a person? Or do you see is a person who is full of ambition and an energy level that can’t be stopped? Do you see a person who strives to be exceptional in their personal and professional life?
Whether we like it or not people judge people based on first impressions. Those who see and interact with lots of people on a daily basis can make incredibly accurate snap judgments based on a first impression.
People Will Judge – Like It or Not
First impressions matter if you are looking to get to know someone. The other person doesn’t care if you are having a bad day. All they will remember is how you made a bad first impression upon them. If it comes between you and someone else, they will drop the other person’s name first.
You have to create an air of confidence and act as if you speaking at a networking event where the world is listening to you.
The positive ambition and energy level you create is what attract people. The five tips mentioned above help to solidify that impression. Personally, I am not a person who needs to be pushed forward, I need to be held back. When I get a challenge I won’t stop until someone else applies the brakes.
This is something I learned by watching a political candidate on a campaign. They have no second chance at a first impression. They had to dress the part and create the self-assurance with energy and ambition that they are going to win. This is something I look for in others.
Mentors and Growing
When I interview someone to work as a coach or in a position for the podcast I ask a single determining question. This question reveals a lot about the character of the person I’m interviewing. The question is “If you could have anyone as a life mentor who would that be person be, and why?”
I ask similar questions to other people and even potential girlfriends. My reasoning is that I’m looking for specific traits from those I surround myself with. I’m looking for people who have an ambition for the future, a determination to succeed, and creativity.
When it comes to first impressions I look for answers that go beyond the superficial. “I don’t know, I just like them” is not going to cut it. Highly successful people have a list of people they admire. Most have one person who stands above the rest.
I surround myself with people who challenge, support, and inspire me to become better than who I currently am. I, in turn, do the same to those whom I meet. I don’t want to pull someone’s energy out. Instead, I want to be able to channel their energy to be exceptional.
Belonging To Something Greater
It becomes a cycle of them motivating me, and me motivating them. It becomes almost addictive. This cycle then attracts people who want what we have and share. Their impression of the group is that we are exceptional and they want to belong to that group.
People want the lifestyle, the experiences, or the stories. If you think about it this is why people want to join different companies or organizations. Why do some people want to work at a tech company like Google? Why do people join the military or law enforcement? The list goes on for many different career fields.
When you dig you will find most people are looking to belong to something bigger than themselves. They want to belong to something that is able to create something exceptional that others do not have.
When it comes to first impressions people remember me for the most trivial things. When I ask someone if they remember how we first met the answer is always similar.
They tend to remember how I stand, how I walk, how I talk, and even the gesture I give with my hands. The eye contact I make or I paid attention to what they said. In other words, it is their first impressions and observations.
Again, It’s In The Details
When pushed further, the underlying reason is that they remember the energy level and the ambition that I show. I’m moving and smiling. I’m having my own little party with a small select group of people.
Everything is in the small subtle differences that I learned by watching people who achieved high levels of success. The details most people miss or believe do not make a difference in a first impression.
The thing to remember is that you can’t just create and show ambition and energy. You have to do it. You can not say you are going to do something and then not follow through.
Your ambition and energy level is the secret to impressing someone. Your actions will show if you are authentic. The other five tips will solidify that authenticity.