Signe Godfrey: How to Make a Strong First Impression

Signe Godfrey
Signe Godfrey

From Signe Godfrey, president of Olsten Staffing Services and Professional Services.

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.  We have from seven to seventeen seconds of interacting with strangers before they form an opinion of us.  Here are some tips on making a good first impression.

Show that you're other-centered

The greatest way to make a positive first impression is to demonstrate immediately that the other person, not you, is the center of action and conversation.  Show that you are other-centered, and first-time acquaintances will be eager to see you again.

  • Show good listening skills
    Give the speaker your undivided attention.  Show that you're a skilled listener by maintaining steady eye contact. Put aside distracting thoughts and don't mentally prepare for a rebuttal. Give positive verbal cues such as "Tell me more, please." or "What did you do next?"
  • Mention the other person's name frequently
    Use the name of a new acquaintance frequently. "Cara, I like that suggestion." "Your vacation must have been exciting, Chase." You show that you have paid attention from the start, catching the name during the introduction.
  • Be careful with humor
    Although a quip or two might serve as an icebreaker, stay away from sarcastic remarks that could backfire. Because you don't know a stranger's sensitivities, prolonged joking might establish barriers you can't overcome, either now or later. 
  • Don't insist that you're right
    Give up the need to be right. Confrontations with somebody you've just met will destroy rapport before you even start building it. Wait until you have established credibility before you challenge another's statements.
  • Appearance counts
    Dress appropriately when meeting someone for the first time. Dress for the job you want to have instead of dressing for the job you have now.
  • Watch your words and how you say them
    Speak so you're easily heard. Enunciate clearly and do not mumble. Display animation in both voice and facial expression.  Listeners judge our intelligence, our cultural level, our education and our leadership ability by the words we select.