Can you afford not to make a good first impression?

With the holidays around the corner, let’s take a look at attending an event, because the same exact actions are called for when you meet anyone for the first time.  John Malloy in “Dress For Success” says, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.  The first clue is lasting.“  Studies show people make instantaneous judgments about us in the first seven seconds they meet us: judgments about our profession (doctor, nurse, clergy, fireman, etc.), level of success, our economic level, our ethnic background, our credibility, our education level, our future credibility, our grooming, our sophistication and more.

As to dress, be sure to wear clothing that is cut well, fits well, and is a good color for your skin tone.  When I first started my business, I was only able to afford one really good suit that was beautifully cut, a great color for me, fit like a dream — and miracle-of-miracles, it was on sale!  I kept it clean, pressed and wore it everywhere of importance.  Yes, I was concerned that people would remember I’d worn that suit before, but that was secondary to feeling so good, powerful, successful in that beautiful suit that I didn’t care.  If others remembered that I’d worn the same suit before, they never said anything.  In fact, wherever I went in that suit, I attracted people to me.

Next, be sure your shoes are polished and that your accessories are appropriate and go well together — whether that’s jewelry, scarves, ties, socks, handbags, briefcases, gloves, hats — you name it — and that your hair is professionally cut, your glasses are on straight, your nails are clean and manicured.  Whew!  That’s quite a list, but these are things you can take care of at home to maximize the chances that you’ll make a good first impression.  

What should you do when you arrive at the meeting or event?  It’s said that when a leader walks into a room, the energy in the room should change for the better.  Here’s a tip on how you can do that. Before you enter the room, take a moment to look in.  While you gaze around the room, hear the “Rocky” theme or “Star Wars” playing loud and clear in your head, see yourself as Stallone running up the steps of the Capital Building in Philly, or Princess Leah or Han Solo.  Take a moment to feel victorious — like a winner.

Guess what? Your physiology will change, your body language will transform.  You’ll stand taller, head high, your chest will puff above your solar plexus, your face will come alive.  Then breathe deeply and evenly.  You’ll actually feel winning energy pumping through your body.  That’s when you walk into the room!

Next, know what your handshake says about you.  A handshake was a gesture of peace in ancient times.  People clasped just below the crease in the elbow to see if you carried a hidden weapon that measured your true intention and true feelings.   Though we now clasp hands, it is still an indication of our intention and true feelings.  Avoid a bone-crushing handshake.  It communicates that you’re trying too hard.  The wet fish handshake communicates weakness or passivity.  Clasping the fingertips only communicates phoniness.   Glad pumping forever, high 5’s, slaps on the back are all greetings to avoid in most circumstances.  The two-handed clasp should be used with care.  Clasp the other person’s hand firmly, web-to-web and look them in the eyes with a bright face.  (By the way, for those of you who have problems, perhaps culturally or emotionally, with actually looking someone directly in the eyes, gaze at their forehead or ear.  They will never know you’re not looking into their eyes and you’ll still make a good impression.)

Ginny Pulos is president of Ginny Pulos Communications, Inc., a speech and media consultancy, and adjunct professor at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. She is an expert in presentation, storytelling and persuasion in corporate environments.r ( 

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