A first impression is like a headline. People are going to check you out and decide immediately if they are interested in knowing more—so it’s vital to make an impactful first impression at the start of every conversation.
People often relate a first impression with a face-to-face meeting, yet initial impressions often precede in-person meetings. Every type of communication with someone new shapes his or her overall impression of you. Here’s how you make every first impression memorable—in person, on the phone, via video chat or in plain old writing…
Presentation is the key to a strong face to face first meeting. Everything from appearance, body language and how you speak will affect how you come across. You know how important it is to dress appropriately and be well-groomed, but do you sit up straight and keep from fidgeting? Do you make direct eye contact and exude confidence? All of these details will factor into your impression. How you handle conversations is extremely important. Balance being a good listener with being an engaging speaker, and most importantly, be interested in what the other person has to say!
People often confuse being professional with being boring or dry. Showcase your personality, just keep it appropriate. Whether it‘s a job interview or meeting a potential client, people are more impressed with vibrant personalities than flat and uninteresting ones.
2. Over the phone
If you are speaking to someone you’ve never met, the entire impression is contingent on your conversation skills. To begin, make sure that you are speaking in the right environment. If the phone call is scheduled, be sure to take it in a quiet place without any distractions. If you are being called at a specific time, don’t answer the phone with a hesitant or too-casual greeting. You already know who is calling, so answer authoritatively. If you’re making the call, always begin by asking the other person if it’s a good time to speak. Organization will help make your initial phone call a success. Have a list of questions and any other materials you need at the ready. Take notes on the call for later reference. Being prepared will allow you to speak confidently without “um’s” and “uh’s” derailing the conversation.
3. Through email
The subject line is often the most-neglected part of an email—don’t disregard its importance. Work on writing a subject line that is specific and personable. Ask yourself, “Would I want to open this message based on the subject line alone?” Tone is also critical. Be professional but personable. When reaching out to someone for the first time, you want the person to get a sense of who you are. Don’t use improper English or text message-style abbreviations. Read the message out loud to yourself before sending it to help you catch mistakes and let you hear how you are coming across.
4. Via video chat
Video chat first impressions combine the attributes of in-person, phone and email interactions. As with an in-person meeting, it is important to focus on your appearance when meeting virtually. You want to be well-organized and conduct the meeting from a quiet spot without distractions. Your setting will factor into how you come across. If you are sitting at a messy desk, you might give off the impression that you are disorganized. Look at your space from an outsider’s point of view before the chat begins. Technology can be fickle, so always check your connection, your speakers and your microphone before the video conference is scheduled to begin. Give yourself adequate time to fix any problems ahead of time so that you don’t have to struggle with it while the other party waits.
A proper follow-up is the final component of a first impression. Sending a thank you note or a follow-up email shows that you appreciated the person’s time and that you’re thinking about next steps.
The best first impression is about more than being memorable. You also want to show people that you remember them. It is two-sided, so the strongest impact relies on a mutual appreciation for the meeting. Be yourself, be kind and be ready to connect. Don’t forget, every impression counts.