Tuck in your shirt, iron your pants, comb your hair – my mother was like a broken record whenever a social occasion came up. “You never know when a talent scout will be there” she used to always say, only half joking despite the zero interest I had in modeling, acting, or other talent-based professions, yet she hit the nail on the head on one thing – you never know who you are going to meet. So assume every person is the most important person until proven otherwise, and present yourself accordingly.
In the business world, networking is the equivalent of a high school prom, and the cool kids always get the cheerleaders. “Getting the girl” in this situation, of course, refers to building a business relationship, and everything starts with a good first impression.
Online printing & design company MOO talks quite a bit about first impressions on their blog, and why shouldn’t they? Every networking opportunity starts with a handshake and an exchange of business cards. MOO encourages the basics, like looking appropriate and being punctual to rendez-vous, but they also advise being a good listener, and being yourself (hopefully you are a good listener, so you won’t have to force it).
For more great tips for getting through the first encounter, check out MOO’s post “Make a great impression”
Despite the fact that we operate in a distinctly online (and thus, behind a computer screen) industry, the reality is that most relationships are built offline. A LinkedIn relationship can start off that much stronger if it comes after a first meeting; mention some points talked about during the first encounter, no matter how unrelated, and you’ll humanize an otherwise impersonal relationship. A good first impression often ends in a handshake and an exchange of business cards – since the business card will be the only memory of your first impression, having a clean, crisp & professional business card can make a world of difference when your new connections are emptying out their pockets the next day.
For more great tips on how to follow-up a first impression, check out MOO’s post “You had me at ‘Hello’ – but now what?” on their blog
Some of the worst first impressions for me have been second impressions – re-meeting someone and receiving an abrupt “you don’t remember me, do you?” There are no good outcomes for this. Either I do remember you and I feel like I’m being insulted, or I don’t remember you and you’ve given me one great reason as to why you weren’t memorable the first time. I start every conversation with “Hi I’m Liam Boogar, co-founder of the Rude Baguette – France’s Startup Blog.” Even if people already know the Rude Baguette in most cases, I like to let them off the hook on the off chance they haven’t memorized my face.
My favorite first impressions have sometimes been relatively uneventful, but in an eventful context. Something just a little personal – usually the result of a good listener who engages with me on a personal level – will leave me much more likely to respond positively to requests later on.
First impressions are important in every context, because they are the basis of your second impression, which should be the first time you ask anything of someone. Whether an article in a blog, a distribution partnership, or a new client: make your first impression a memorable one, so that you have great groundwork for your second impression.