First impressions are important. Richard Branson states that he usually makes up his mind about people within 30 seconds of meeting them. Research shows that we subconsciously form judgements and opinions very quickly when we meet people, and that these are based on our initial impressions.  In business there are frequently opportunities to meet new people, whether it’s colleagues, clients or via networking events. To keep your own profile alive and kicking it’s crucial to use these chances to make the best good first impression in business you possibly can.
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Posture, physical gestures, and facial expressions. Together, these three elements of our body language can determine whether we succeed in making a good first impression in business. Being self-aware of your body language can help you use it to your advantage.
When you meet someone for the first time, remember to smile and offer a firm handshake. Keeping your body angled towards the other person and leaning slightly towards them gives a visual indication that you are interested in them and what they have to say. If you are prone to fidgeting or using lots of hand gestures, try to keep these in check as they can be distracting for the other person. Keep your hands in your lap, and only use them to back up important points in the conversation. To get a feel for what your body language is like, why not ask a trusted colleague for some feedback? You could also ask someone to video you interacting with other people so you can examine your body language.
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The way you look also plays a part in the impression you make on other people. Dressing appropriately will not only help you to feel more confident in yourself, it also projects a positive image to other people. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to become a style guru overnight! It is more about presenting yourself in a professional, business appropriate way while feeling comfortable in yourself.
It can be helpful to consider the situation(s) where you need to make a good first impression in business. Think about what the other person or people you’ll be meeting will be wearing and aim to emulate them. You should also tailor your approach depending on the occasion. For example, will you be in a formal setting, such as a client meeting, or is it a more informal occasion, such as a business lunch? Remember also that what constitutes appropriate dress varies between different cultures, so if you are planning a business trip abroad, be sure to check out the local customs and traditions before you go.
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We have all been in a situation where we’ve met someone who talks endlessly about themselves. This can be considered impolite, and it doesn’t help to make a positive first impression. A good initial conversation should be balanced, with both parties showing a genuine interest in each other. Start things on the right footing by asking open-ended questions to invite the other person to talk about themselves. As the conversation develops, look for shared interests and experiences. Finding common ground also helps you to build a genuine sense of rapport with another person, which is invaluable when it comes to making a good first impression.
A big part of making a good impression on someone is your ability to project an air of confidence and calm – even if you have butterflies in your stomach! Other people can quickly pick up on any nervousness, and this can create tension and make the situation more stressful than it needs to be. Focus on some simple relaxation techniques to calm yourself. Before entering the room or situation, practice breathing deeply and use visualisation to imagine yourself feeling relaxed and happy.
It is often said that people do business with people, rather than with organisations. By striving to make a positive first impression with every potential customer or contact you meet, you will lay the foundations for strong working relationships based on trust. People are far more likely to continue to do business with someone they already have a positive connection with. So, when you meet someone for the first time, try to be yourself! You can stand out by showing some individuality, demonstrating a sense of humour and showing warmth and emotion. These are all ways in which we connect with other people, not just in business but in all aspects of our lives.
 David Fickling, ‘Research Shows First Impressions Really Count’, The Guardian (23 August 2006). Available at: theguardian.com (accessed 17 February 2014).