Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

 

Some things do happen in an instant.

Love, hate, an arrest for public indecency.

So it's easy to believe that you should be rehearsing for that moment when you first meet someone from whom you want something.

It's easy to tell yourself that you have to prepare precisely what you're going to say, to show you mean business.

But here are a few suggestions that might be slightly unconventional, but might help you stand out from the mass of people who've read the same self-help book about making a killer impression.

1. Don't say anything.

Silence is terribly underrated. In America, it's terribly hard to find too. Sports commentators feel the need to talk over every piece of action. People on dates worry that the minute there's even a nanosecond of empty space this means love has taken one sniff of the coop and flown away. Silence allows you to become the perfect counterpuncher. It allows you to observe, without giving too much away. Silence can be alluring. It projects a certain level of confidence, without forcing you into some stupid opening gambit such as: "Hi, I'm Jason. Is that your daughter?" as you point at the picture of the interviewer and his wife.

2. Wear one piece of original or even apparently incongruous clothing.

So many people have their interview outfits or their look-sharp-to-meet-a-new business-contact outfits. Too often, they end up looking as if they'd asked the person who dresses the dummies in Ann Taylor for advice. It's remarkable how one piece of seemingly effortless originality can bring with it a touch of fresh oxygen. This might require having a little taste. But you surely have one friend who can help you with that. I confess that when I started one new job, I feared that the staff were something of a closed-minded cabal. So on the first day, my girlfriend suggested I wear a pair of see-through trousers. They weren't see-through all the way up, as it were. They were Prada, for goodness sake. But they did send a message that things weren't going to be quite the same anymore. I know it sounds silly. But life is. And people certainly are.

3. Lower your voice just a little.

Many people, when they're nervous, speak in what seems to be an octave higher than normal. It's one of those things that happens before you know it, and once you know it, you can't do anything about it. And it can make you sound like Woody Woodpecker's tragic spinster cousin. Try fighting against this by lowering your voice a little from the start. You do this on dates and it works a charm, don't you? It might work a charm here too.

4. Refuse to meet online.

I know that everyone is supposed to be Skype-stupendous and FaceTime-fabulous these days. But video doesn't capture the real you, the present you. If anything, it captures the newsreader you or the selfie you. If you can find a way to make an in-person meeting happen, you can at least be yourself. And, equally importantly, it gives you the chance to meet the other party as they really are. How many times do I hear the phrase "Phone Interview" or "Let's Skype" and my heart sinks like Greek currency? If it's a case of distance, find an excuse to be in the same city as the person you want to impress. If the first impression is over compressed airwaves, you leave yourself exposed to a technical fault or a wardrobe malfunction. And who needs that, other than the FCC?

5. Be self-deprecatory.

Yes, I know you're trying to sell yourself, but can you imagine how dull it is for an interviewer or a potential client to have to listen to cheery person after even cheerier person selling themselves like P.T. Barnum on crack? Think about the people you like. How did they make a lasting first impression on you? Did they tell you how wonderful they were? Or did they gently make you laugh? Were you moved by their recounting of their astounding resume and life story? Or did they tell you about the time they tripped over their dog and fell head-first into their kids' paddling pool?

6. Don't try to make an impression.

Have I made an impression on you yet? Do you think I'm a touch daft? Perhaps. But how do you know what impression to make if you've never met the person before? How do you know if you're not going to catch them on a day when they have a cold, or when their plumber has caused a flood, their lover has just left them for a woman of the cloth, or they've just been told they're going to be transferred to Mogadishu? You don't. So why prepare to make too much of an impression, when the situation will likely require impromptu thinking and reaction? Perhaps the best way to make a first impression is to be yourself and not some hyperactive, puffed-up, bloated-resumed, self-aggrandizing, supremely smiley, super-selly faker.

Published on: Jun 25, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.