The making of the perfect first (and last) impression…

Author: Adam Mortimer

It’s said you only have one chance to make a first impression. It’s a bit of a weird science and, if you’re a little shy like me, I thought I’d share some thoughts on how to make the first impression the right impression.

Like you, over the course of time, I’ve met literally thousands of people across various business and diverse social circles, continents, cities and circumstances (The maths? Say I meet four new people a week, over 20+ years – well, that’s a LOT of first impressions).

So what makes a truly great first impression?

We often refer to the qualities of intent, openness, allowing for good two-way conversation and dialogue with thoughtful questions, the style of engaging, of being natural and creating a welcome energy that you just want to be around.

The more genuine and effortless the interaction, that leaves you feeling like your time was valued and you’d just shared or learned something, the greater the feeling of genuine connection.

Adversely, the more aspirational, over confident or over familiar, the more disconnected the experience can be.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou.

Being the man of a thousand meets, I’ve jotted a couple of conscious and unconscious things to consider for your next first and lasting impression:

  • In most cultures, a well-placed handshake is welcome. Go easy on the power-shake grip as though life itself depended on it. Relax, step forward, tilt your head towards them slightly, smile, and show that you’re the one who is honored by the introduction – not them.
  • Aim to connect. Staring off into the middle-distance and not at the person is a sure sign of disconnection (would you rather be over there? Is there something behind me?)
  • Practice a little social Jiu-Jitsu. Learn to listen, take a genuine interest in the other person from the outset. As soon as you learn a little about someone, ask how he/she did it. Or why. Or what they liked about it, or what they learned from it, or what you should do if you’re in a similar situation.
  • It’s OK to admit a little failing or weakness – don’t be afraid to show a little vulnerability – people sincerely like the genuine. ‘That’s awesome, I’ve always wondered what it would be like, but haven’t been able to pull it off how did you make it happen?’
  • Let’s face it, laughter is good. Find ways to share a giggle (or belly laugh if you can!).
  • Drop the power pose. It’s great to display non-verbal self-confidence, but displaying self-importance is another story totally.
  • The over familiar can be awkward too. I’ve met with people who launch straight into heavy language or strong personal opinions… Was that necessary? Really! Impression made!
  • Close as you began. Offer a handshake, use their name and offer a genuine, appreciative smile ‘I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you…’

So yes, making a great first impression is important – but equally so is making a great last impression.

Who stands out most in your mind as leaving a positive lasting impression – why was that? What did they do? How did they make you feel? What first impression approach works best for you and what impression would you like to leave?

We’d love to hear about it!


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