How to make a good first impression

Blurred shot of a two men shaking hands - closeup of clasped hands

We form first impressions within 30 seconds of meeting someone new
Image source: Gutesa

First date, new job, networking event, work conference – whatever the occasion, making a good first impression is important.

We asked some of America’s best bloggers to share their tried and tested socializing secrets. In an era when it’s easy to interact almost exclusively online, here are some good old fashioned tips for making a successful face-to-face, first impression…

Appearance

Model wearing pleated chino pants (mushroom) from Samuel Windsor

Tonal browns make you look warm and approachable
Image source: Pleated chino pants (mushroom) from Samuel Windsor

What you wear says a lot about you. Like it or not, people make an almost instantaneous decision based on your clothes, hair, shoes and general appearance. You can dress to blend in, or you can dress to stand out, but it’s attention to detail that will help you make a good first impression.

Brian Tracy, one of America’s top authorities for sales, management and personal development training helps people get off on the right foot at job interviews. His advice?

First, take complete control over every detail of your personal appearance and grooming. Resolve to look like a powerful, influential person in all your business activities. Second …know exactly what to wear and in what combination. Read a book, take a seminar or even hire an image consultant.

It’s not necessary to spend a fortune to dress well. Clean, well-ironed clothes that fit you perfectly can look every bit as good as those with expensive labels, says Stephen Handisides of Modern Male Mindset:

“You don’t necessarily have to wear designer clothes to impress. It is all about how you present yourself. You can’t go past a sharp suit for style factor, but if the occasion doesn’t allow it, then a crisp shirt, casual chinos or jeans, and good quality pair of leather shoes can look really stylish.”

Take a moment to get a haircut, polish your shoes and neatly trim your nails before an event where you’ll be meeting people for the first time. Wearing your best suit won’t impress anyone if your hair is greasy and disheveled and you extend a hand with dirty fingernails. And if you’re not sure what to wear for different events or occasions, check out our men’s dress codes infographic for advice.

Body language

People gathered round with plates of food talking

Use your body language to put others at ease
Image source: Shutterstock

Body language is a subtle science but it does influence how people respond to you. Stand tall and try to look confident, even if you don’t necessarily feel it. Andrew Nackton of Aspiring Gentleman says:

“Confidence is about coming to terms with who you are… not projecting some false macho version of yourself. If you’re happy with who you are, then that will come across in your behaviour, your body language, everything. Then you won’t need to worry about being confident, because your natural confidence will shine through automatically.”

Eye contact is also a great way to radiate trustworthiness and help people warm to you. “When meeting someone for the first time, look them in the eye when you smile and introduce yourself,” says Jon Bailey, one of the adventure-loving fathers behind 2 Dads with Baggage. And, he reminds us, your handshake is important too: “Shake hands firmly – no one likes a limp fish!

Most importantly, don’t forget the simple things, reminds Nicholas of Quintessential Gent: “Smile! Nothing is more welcoming, and it puts people at ease.”

Listen

Couple having dinner and enjoy each other's company over food

Listen and show genuine interest in what others have to say
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Want to make a killer first impression?” asks Manny of Well Built Style. Simple, just “listen.” Manny is a fitness enthusiast and style aficionado whose positive energy is infectious. It might sound simple, but active listening is a vastly under-rated skill. Manny explains:

“People want to be heard and appreciated more than anything. Charm is nothing more than making people feel good about themselves. This is best accomplished by taking a genuine interest in other people and what they have to say.”

Remembering people’s names shows that you’ve listened. Awful memory? Jon from 2 Dads with Baggage makes a point to repeat the person’s name back to them to help him remember: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Stanley. My name’s Jonathan.” And again at the end of the conversation: “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you a bit, Stanley. Have a wonderful evening.

Leave a lasting impression

Two businessmen in offices with one patting the other on their shoulder

Let people know you’ve enjoyed their company
Image source: Shutterstock

Even when he doesn’t feel up to it, Howard Blount, the traveling blogger behind Backroad Planet relies on writer, Toni Morrison’s wise counsel – make sure that your face “lights up” when someone enters the room. Howard says:

Even in noisy, crowded settings, I focus on making eye contact, listening carefully, and responding appropriately. I do this because I remember the many times acquaintances have made me feel like I was the only person in the room.

Howard meets new people all the time while exploring for his travel blog. Making connections with locals is how he uncovers so many of the ‘insider secrets’ he shares in his detailed guides. He reckons that Dr. Maya Angelou sums up his approach best:

…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

You only get one shot at making a first impression, so make sure it’s a good one. Prefer to hide behind a screen and a keyboard? Socializing is like any other skill. Practice, as they say, makes perfect!

Posted in Men's Style Guides.

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