A first meeting can make or break a relationship, whether it’s business or personal. Here’s how to make a good impression.
Think of all the first meetings you’ve ever had—a future employer, new friend, teacher, principal, attorney, even the owner of one of the beach city shops. Maybe you are in sales, in business for yourself or are just someone who finds it pleasant to connect with those in your community. Let’s face it—life is more fulfilling when we can make a good impression and make encounters more meaningful, significant and memorable.
First meetings offer so much to learn about someone new and what opportunity this new connection could lead to. No matter the type of first meeting, be it for business or personal, keeping an open mind, approaching with curiosity and most of all, trusting our vibes about someone new, is key in creating and building a positive long-term relationship. Sometimes we may be wrong, misjudged or have incorrect information or worse yet, we were misinformed. Certainly, certain events may happen that can change our initial prediction of how we thought a connection or relationship may develop. We learn and grow from this and we become more aware for other first meetings.
I like to meet with everyone who is referred to me or seems to be doing something relevant to my world. I’ll also meet with people I think are interesting. Many of the projects I have been involved in have come out of random meetings.
Depending on the situation, presenting ourselves the first time can be nerve-wracking or exciting. I can recall those nervous first meetings with future employers, the principal of a new school or someone’s parents.
How do you feel in a first meeting? Shy? Self-conscious? Excited? Do you find yourself comparing, searching for a connection or trying to show interest? Maybe you are purely open and approach the first meeting with simple curiosity.
Have you ever had a first meeting and found someone who was very unprepared? Or worse yet, perhaps you felt unprepared? This can cause us to become impatient. Avoid this—it’s easy to do a little work in advance to figure out the other person’s interests.
Here are some tips that will help to create a memorable meeting and a strong, business or personal connection:
- First, determine the No. 1 thing you want to communicate with this person. Many times a first meeting may be to talk about yourself and your current activities. Most people can probably handle one—maybe two—areas of focus during a first meeting, so it’s important to lead off with the one thing you want to accomplish within the meeting. If you find you are two minutes into a meeting and still have no clue why you’re speaking with the person, politely ask, “What do you want to get out of this meeting?” This offers a simple hint: cut the chit-chat and focus. It isn’t being rude; it is being efficient, so you can make the time together useful for both of you.
- Try not to make a first meeting an endless stream of attempts to connect with someone. For example, if you discuss the other person’s activities such as running, reading or their vacation home in Europe, make sure it’s relevant to the meeting’s topic. This especially applies to those first business meetings. Most people can focus 100 percent of their energy on you for about 15 minutes—so make those first 15 minutes count.
- It can be helpful and effective to have one thing in your head that you think this new person can learn from you. Keep in mind that regardless of the outcome of a meeting, you can view it as a success if you learn one thing. If your meeting isn’t going anywhere after ten minutes, you may have to be subtle and announce, “Wow, I’ve got five more minutes left, I’d like to really see how we can network.” It helps, of course, if you know what you want this new person to learn from you, and it relates to what they care about.
- Remove your ego. Share what you do—not your title, employer or financial status. It may be a shock to realize this, but for most people, your title, company name or financial status will mean very little—it’s what you do in your company and in life that makes you interesting. Start by describing the primary benefit that your work, intention or value offers to your listener, in a few punchy action words that support your true reason for meeting.
Never underestimate the power of first meetings. Within minutes, we quickly determine whether we want to spend more time building a business or personal connection with a new person. No one wants to waste his or her time, so your pre-meeting prep work will help make your next first meeting count—and it may lead to a wonderful, unexpected opportunity!
I would love to hear how you make a good first impression.
You can read more inspiration in my Uber Empowerment Books.