I waited to deliver this post until we were in a season when people could benefit most. This is a time of year when people attend holiday parties and other functions and meet many new people. I thought it would be ideal to provide your 8-step guide to make the ultimate first impression.

I promised myself I’d skip all the obvious tips such as being on time, proper grooming, speaking clearly and so forth. If you’re taking the time to read this, I owe you my experience.

That experience comes from nearly three decades of consulting. I’ve spent the last decade speaking with or meeting an average of 3,500-4,000 new people every year!

We’re talkin’ actual human interaction—the kind that existed before the invention of email, the Internet, and social media. You simply can’t use the delete key or de-friend button if you want to stop the pain.

Do you remember when the only time you could halt rude people was to cry Mommy, make it stop or risk offending them directly to their faces or ears? Of course you don’t.

Believe me. That time once existed.

Today, the most successful and happy people still engage interpersonal communication techniques that existed once upon a forgotten era.

What should you do when the time arises?


Your first impression starts with your body language. Oftentimes, this occurs before you’re aware you’re making an impression! Someone might notice you from afar. Your body language, overall posture, and demeanor send a message that echoes like you yelled it in a canyon. Be aware of your surroundings.


Do you realize even though the corners of your mouth need to rise, smiling takes less energy than frowning? People respond to this because you appear warm, welcoming, and nonjudgmental. They want to share themselves with you and learn about you. If you smile (sincerely), you’ll increase your chance of making a positive impression by more than 90%. Take the odds. There, of course, will be an extremely small percentage of cynical people you won’t be able to connect with. No loss. You don’t need them in your life no matter who they are or what (you think) they offer.


If you’re smiling and can’t get off your rump (those with ailments and elderly ladies aside), you’ve completely erased the benefit of your smile. You’ve just “said,” you’re not worth it for me to rise. Ouch. Standing also allows you to open up your body language to a more inviting posture.


Shake hands firmly, which means no dead-fish handshake. Squeezing implies engagement. Dead fishing…not so much. I don’t care whether it’s a man, woman, child, or dog, give them a good shake. I don’t care if you’re in the middle of your $58 filet mignon; make sure you’re standing when you do it. If you’re wearing a hat, cap, bandana, headband or whatever else people wear on their heads these days, take it off. It’s a polished move and shows you’re respectful and cool.


Introduce yourself with a smile on your face and simultaneously look them in the eyes as you give their palm a good squeeze.


Repeat his or her name so you hear it for yourself. This will help you remember it and also give them a chance to correct you if you heard them incorrectly. A simple, “Hi John. Nice to meet you,” will do the trick. Then, use his or her name optimally. I said optimally. Don’t overuse it. That’s annoying. Don’t underuse it. You risk forgetting it. Why else repeat? The sound of one’s own name is one of the most pleasing sounds anyone hears. It just is.


This is one of the most important steps. It’s what truly endears you to people. Withhold simply asking people what they “do.” It’s lazy. They also have no idea why you want to know.

Did you know that whenever you request something—anything—you increase your chances of getting a “Yes” by more than 50% whenever you share your “because?” That statistic holds true even when your “because” is flimsy.

I prefer one of two alternatives that can be used in virtually any setting.

The first alternative is to ask them what they love. Try something such as, “John, what is it you love to do?” You can tack on some multiple choices—hobbies, play, work and so forth. Rarely will their passions coincide with what they do for a living. (Sad, I know. But, there’s no reason to risk it.) Get them talking about what they love! People light up when they speak about something they love. You just ensured they would be speaking about something positive as opposed to running the risk of asking them about jobs they loathe.

The second alternative is the one I truly love. It’s a two piece-r. Show them you’re a giver. (You need to mean it sincerely or they’ll smell the deceit.) Try something such as, “Jane, what do you do for work or with most of your time?” The reason I ask is because I’m a

[insert whatever you do]. I’m always interested in ways I can help people.”

The reason the “most of your time” is required is because you have no clue whether they are working, volunteering, staying at home to manage the children, and so on. Give them appropriate segues. You’ll think of me the first time you use this technique and receive an unexpected response. Email me when it happens. 🙂


Then shut up and let them talk.

I always love to hear from you: What are your best first-impression tips?