Business relationships are defined in the first 90 seconds. Whether interviewing for a job, meeting a client, or participating in a group event; we often overlook the value of first impressions. Instead of being thoughtful and pragmatic, a lot of people rush their introductions, ignore their physical cues, and gloss over personal details out of nerves or inexperience.
The truth is, we only have one chance for a first impression. And successful people understand just how important this opportunity is.
According to Alexander Todorov, a professor of psychology at Princeton, people trust their first impression and hold onto it for a long time: “Once we have a representation formed, it’s used as a filter. Think someone’s trustworthy right off the bat? You might tell them more. And if you write them off as a negative person, you might complain about them to coworkers.”
Here are a few ways to make sure you leave a lasting first impression and are perceived by others as a positive individual.
Make Eye Contact
When you enter a room or meet someone for the first time, try and make it your goal to remember eye color. It will help you stay engaged and present in the moment. A lot of younger working professionals have a tendency to avoid eye contact after a few seconds, which displays a sense of insecurity and immaturity.
Usually, eye contact is the very first impression you will make when being introduced. It’s an opportunity to establish yourself as a friendly, interested personality.
Project Confident Body Language
Do you sit up straight in a chair or slouch down and gaze into the distance? Do you look to grab a seat at the table or disappear into the back of the room?
These basic somatic offer insight into who you are and how you act in a professional setting. Whether you realize it or not, physical presence helps people make snap judgments about your personality. It could be the difference between someone thinking you are curious and enthusiastic or bored and out of place.
Focus On Your Role, Not Your Title and Tenure
The classic introduction line is, “Hello, I’m Jonah and I work on the marketing team. I have been in this role for a few months and I’m really excited to work with you.”
How many times have you heard some variation of that line? And guess what, everyone else has heard it or said it before too. Instead, try something along the lines of, “Hello, I’m Jonah and I work on developing the content strategy for our agency and our clients. I am a member of our marketing team.”
It is a simple shift that still gives your audience an understanding of your title, but provides a little more depth on how you can contribute. It is also important to remember that your tenure with an organization only matters if it positions you better. I have been with my current company for a few months, so bringing it up to new clients establishes me as green and potentially inexperienced.
Share Relevant Personal and Professional Information
Most people want to know a little more than your name and your role. When speaking for the first time to someone new, you have a chance to really grab their attention. You can add a quick background to your introduction that is relevant or try to find common ground with the person you are speaking too. While I currently live in Abuja, I like to bring up that I am from Port Harcourt. This little piece of personal information either sparks further questions or connects me with someone who happens to be from the Niger Delta Region.
It does not have to be anything overly revealing- just be creative and attentive as to what may resonate with the person you are speaking to.
Sean Conlon, a real estate mogul and host of CNBC’s primetime show, ‘The Deed’, in an interview, said, “Love me or hate me, you’ll remember me”. With Sean, who started his career in the U.S. as a poor Irish immigrant, first impressions meant everything. His philosophy in life is “what you see is what you get”, which speaks volumes to the personality trait that drives his success.
People can usually pick up on inauthenticity, and saying something or agreeing with someone for the sake of it could backfire. In order to make a good first impression that lasts, it’s important to be yourself.
Do Not Forget To Smile
As Ann Demarais, founder of ‘First Impressions’, a New York-based coaching and consulting company told Time Magazine, “We sort of scan the world for threats, and facial expressions are really primarily processed. On a very deep level, if someone is frowning or looks threatening, we register that as ‘Watch out.’”
Smiling is an invitation for mutual warmth and appreciation. Not only will it make you seem more approachable, but it eases the tension for everyone else while painting you in a positive light.
Introducing yourself is at the core of networking and business relationships. Being able to professionally handle these little interactions with poise and confidence will put you a tier ahead of everyone else.
In the first 90 seconds, most people will make a quick judgment about you. Take advantage of the opportunity and establish yourself as a confident, creative, collaborative team player, or leader. It’s the best way to position yourself for a successful future.