Making a great first impression can be tough, especially if you’re a little on the shy side. It can be uncomfortable to try to meet people we don’t know. How do we get past that initial awkward greeting? And how do we make sure that we aren’t a forgettable face in a sea of business cards?
There are a few key steps we can take to make a great first impression, and what’s more, we can do it in a fun and friendly way. Here are a few things you can start implementing immediately:
Focus on Them
When you take the focus off of yourself and put it on someone else, you immediately make them feel special. Believe it or not, almost everyone likes to talk about themselves. Not because we’re particularly narcissistic or self-centered, but because it feels good to be noticed. Show someone that you genuinely care about getting to know them, and what they’ll take away from having met you is how you made them feel. Don’t overthink this, you can make it fun by saying things like, “I love your shoes, and I’ve been looking for a pair just like them! How do you like yours? Do you mind if I ask where you got them, and do you mind if we both show up to the same place wearing them?!”
Adjust Your Body Language
This one is critical. Our body language says more than our words ever do. Show you’re approachable and friendly by smiling, making and holding eye contact, and not slouching or standing too rigid. Also, keep in mind that crossing your arms is putting up a barrier. However insecure you’re feeling, try to put your hands on your hips or down at your sides. Be sure to lean in and nod your head to show you’re actively listening.
When you’re going in to a situation where you know you’ll be meeting new people for the first time; conferences, networking events, trade shows, it’s a good idea to be prepared with a short introduction about yourself and what you do. Keep this to less than 10 seconds, but also find a fun way to explain it. Maybe instead of saying, “I own my own store”, how about, “I opened a great little boutique not far from here, and I get to spend my day showing people how to pair cute boots with a great pair of skinny jeans.” After introducing yourself, immediately shift your attention back to them.
This may seem a little strange, but yes, read. Whatever you can get your hands on, as long as it helps you stay up on current news and trends. You don’t have to be a voracious reader, or be well-read. Hemingway is lovely, but what you need is a quick snapshot of what’s going on in your industry and in the world around us. It can be something as simple as a short article or blog post. That way you’ll be in the loop when people are talking about the latest Seth Godin book or what just happened in Japan. Even if it’s something as silly as what the Kardashian’s are up to, being up on current events helps you appear knowledgeable and sometimes fun, and also provides some common ground to get started on.
Do the Approaching
It may feel more natural to wait to be approached, but you’ll risk missing out if you don’t take the initiative to do the approaching. Look for someone who is alone and go ahead and introduce yourself. Or, if you’re already in a group of people and notice folks hovering around the periphery, open the circle and invite them in. Talk about letting someone know you’re friendly!
While this would appear to go without saying, I’m betting we’ve all experienced a few first impressions of folks who came off as anything but kind. It’s too bad, but that’s exactly what happens when we’re not allowing our interaction to be fun. Even in an interview, it’s okay to come across as fun and friendly. Warm, approachable people appear more trustworthy and honest. That sounds like a great first impression to me.
Remember not to make this more difficult than it has to be. You can make a great first impression in a fun, friendly way by being yourself, and putting others at ease. Smile, take the focus off of you, be genuinely interested without any expectations of what you can “get” out of the encounter, and you’ll be making excellent first impressions in no time.