Are You Making The Wrong First Impression?

It takes less than a second for people to judge whether they like someone during their first encounter. Etiquette expert Penny Edge advises on how to maximise that vital first business impression.

Do you remember a time that you dreaded attending a business meeting, giving the perfect sales pitch or making a valuable contribution during an internal meeting?

I have run my own business for just over 20 years and I understand how important it is to make the right first impression.

They say it takes less than a second for people to judge whether they like someone during their first encounter, so it is vital in business not to underestimate the power of first impressions.

Let’s break this down into some simple rules to make sure you’re sending the right signals about yourself from the start.

Rule 1

Don’t talk about business on your first meeting; connect first on a personal level. People buy people first!

Rule 2

Always remember to introduce yourself correctly: “How do you do? My name is Penny Edge”, shake hands with the person and they will give you their name. To help you remember their name, repeat it back to them – “Pleased to meet you John” – and if possible introduce them to someone else. By repeating the name you will remember it.

Another way is to make an association of someone else you know, or associate it to the place where you met and possibly the clothes the person is wearing.

Next time you meet, make sure to mention at least one point from your last discussion to show your interest in that person and what they said. In the boardroom remember to introduce the CEO or managing director first, then introduce by seniority in the company.

It is essential to observe the company culture, for example you may be asked to be seated and not to remove your jacket until the host of the meeting does.

Rule 3

The handshake! After the initial 20-second first impression, the next area for judgment is the handshake. Remember you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

To give a good first impression stand tall, make eye contact, smile and be genuine with your comments.

You should always shake hands on the first, second or any subsequent meeting. It is the first intimate contact you will normally have with any individual and it is regarded as extremely rude if you don’t shake hands.

Rule 4

To help you prepare for a meeting, visualise the people in the boardroom and the questions they may ask. If you are giving a presentation, organise the room so you feel comfortable delivering your presentation.

Don’t be afraid of silences; walk round the room if you feel some people are not listening and change the tone of your voice to add some variety. Use the lighthouse technique, making sure you have good eye contact with all of your audience.

If you feel you have a non-receptive audience, give them a handout, which should bring a more positive tone to the meeting. I trained one gentleman from a leading investment bank who did not realise that the 20 minutes before a meeting was the best time to reach rapport with your clients – he does now!

Rule 5

One last note about business cards in a board meeting – they’re not really appropriate, unless they are given at the end. During a sales meeting business cards should be offered at the beginning, while at a networking meeting, they should be handed out at the introduction stage, after the handshake.

Remember when you give your business card to tell a short story; they may forget your name but they will not forget the story. Also, look at both sides of the card and underline the best contact method whether it is by mobile, email or by text.

Good luck and remember good manners maketh the man (or woman!).


Penny Edge is the founder of the Finishing Academy UK. She provides corporate etiquette courses in the UAE through SO Famous. For more information, visit www.so-famous.com, email info@so-famous.com or call 04 451 9160.


READ MORE: The 7 Types of Handshake and How To Manage Them