The adage 'you can't judge a book by its cover' is only partially true. Research shows we make strong assumptions about another person within the first 1/10th of a second of the first meeting. While you can't entirely control what someone else thinks, you can make every effort to put your best foot forward.
The following five tips will help you make a positive and lasting impression:
1. Stand Up and Be Counted
Every greeting starts with your feet. In today's business arena, both women and men must rise to show respect for themselves and the other person. An introduction to someone new provides the opportunity to widen your network and build relationships.
A guest should make an effort to mix and mingle and never take a seat. A host has the edge by inviting those they want to get to know better. Soon people will clamor to be on the guest list of a gracious networking planner.
Regardless of your role, why blow it by keeping your seat while your competitor is commanding the floor? Avoid immediately handing the other person a business card. Use the opportunity to make a positive impact first.
2. Smile With Your Eyes
An authentic smile will put a stranger at ease and establish a connection. But, how can you tell when a smile is genuine?
According to Paul Ekman, Professor Emeritus in Psychology at UC San Francisco who helped develop the Facial Action Coding System, "The only place that will reveal the difference in a broad, intense smile is the skin between the eyebrows and the upper eyelid. That will move slightly down in the genuine smile and will not move in the polite or false smile. Everybody can voluntarily make their lips smile, but very few people can contract the muscle that surrounds the eyes."
While most people may want to hide their "laugh lines," Eckman's research indicates your eyes are the key to delivering your best authentic smile.
3. Use Your Name Tag to Your Advantage
A name tag is one of the most useful tools at your disposal to ensure that people remember you at a networking or corporate event. Worn slightly below the right shoulder to follow the line of sight of a handshake, it can be easily accessed and used as an effective memory prompt when a name is forgotten. Placing it on your waist, purse, or thigh makes it difficult for someone to quickly and inconspicuously take a glance.
4. Speak Your Name With Confidence
Introduce yourself by stating both your first and last name. "Hey, I'm George" is less powerful than, "Hello, I'm George Smith." Sharing only your first name is forfeiting half of your influence.
Avoid an abrupt correction if they call you by the wrong name, but instead in a pleasant tone of voice respond with, "It's Debbie, not Debra." The other person will appreciate the gentle reminder as it will save them from future embarrassment.
5. Activate the Winning Formula
There is a combination of factors that influence another person's first impression. Most people won't say, "Joe has great manners." But, they will comment, "There's something about that guy I really like." It can be as simple as a professional gesture of trust.
A handshake speaks multiple languages and conveys goodwill. The first person to extend their hand for the acknowledgement has the edge. A weak handshake can be a deal breaker, and an overbearing clutch appears antagonistic. The ideal shake is a firm, non-aggressive clasp which connects the entire hand, palm to palm. We all know someone who consistently delivers a miserable grip; it pays dividends to learn how to shake like a winner.