You only get one chance to make a good first impression. And when your business is on the line it’s more important than ever
In any business meeting, it’s the first 10 seconds that really count. In that brief time span someone will appraise your appearance, your manner and your sincerity, and form an instant opinion on whether they see you as someone they can engage with, regardless of what you’re saying.
With all of that to consider before you even begin to make your pitch, how can you ensure that the first impression you make is a positive one?.
Dress to impress
Wear clothes that look smart and professional, and are in keeping both with the business environment you are aiming to engage with, and the one you’re representing. Most importantly, though, choose something that is comfortable enough for you to feel at ease.
You need to be confident and able to showcase your talents. You don’t want to wear anything so loud as to be distracting, but if you feel that you look good, so will other people.
To engage with any investors or partners you need to look like somebody worth listening to. For the gentlemen, “if you have a beard, you need to make sure it looks immaculate, and if it’s designer stubble, that it is neat”, says wardrobe coach Alicia Kite from Alicia Kay Style.
Good grooming – for either sex – creates an immediate positive impression of someone who is neat, tidy and well organised in all aspects of life, including their work.
Send the right signals
Most people are unaware of their body language, yet it can have a powerful effect through the signals that it sends to others.
For example, people naturally warm to those who appear friendly and open, so smile. Doing so also projects confidence and makes you appear trustworthy, says Bernard Marr, chief executive of the Advanced
Just as important is making eye contact and offering a firm handshake – not too tight a grip, and not too long a shake. This inspires confidence and establishes sincerity, and creates a winning first impression.
Good posture, standing tall and looking alert are also very important, as they signal to the other person that you are genuinely interested in talking to them. Business is a two-way street, and it’s important that although you are pitching, you convey that you understand the value the other person is bringing to any deal.
There is nothing worse than having your phone go off during an important introduction or meeting. Set it to silent, or if the vibration alert could potentially throw you off your stride, switch the thing off altogether.
Your tone of voice should exude confidence in yourself and enthusiasm for your business, but it must be authentic and reflect who you are. While you may need to dial yourself down or up a bit for your audience, it’s almost impossible to maintain a persona throughout a pitch, let alone a business partnership, so don’t try.
“Don’t be afraid to show your personality and your passion,” says Eduardo Martinez, co-founder of online business services firm Geniac. “People make decisions based on emotions, and without emotionally connecting with someone you are at risk of losing them.”