by Steve Adubato, PhD

Did you ever hear the expression, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression?” It is so true. Imagine this scenario. You meet someone for the first time and you have a big smile on your face. You give him a hearty and sincere handshake and what you get back is a sourpuss and the proverbial “fish hand.” You will never forget it. Your first impression of that person will be embedded in your mind forever.

Now imagine that this first impression is from someone coming in for a job interview or a sales presentation. What are the odds that you are going to hire him or be anxious to do business? Not very good. His resume could look great on paper and his PowerPoint presentation could be off the charts. But that first impression sticks with you as one that is unfriendly, inaccessible and weak.

All of us, particularly in the world of business, are constantly making first impressions on others whether we realize it or not. Consider this powerful example. Our television production company was looking for a makeup artist and one of our producers reached out to a young woman who had started her own cosmetics company. As we were attempting to book her for a production day, she said to our producer over the phone; “I will put the date in my calendar, but if you guys decide to cancel, you know you are going to have to pay me anyway.”

There it is—a negative first impression that will last forever. That was years ago and we ended up bringing that makeup artist in for ONE day, but she was never hired again.

With this anecdote in mind, consider the following tips and tools that future columns will cover as I prepare for a “Make a Great First Impression” keynote presentation at the TD Bank / Star-Ledger “Road to Personal Wealth Financial Conference” on November 3.

--Be clear in your communication. If you are meeting someone over the phone for the first time, it is essential that you have a clear, focused and concise message. Rambling communicators make a terrible first impression. Go into that phone call with two or three bulleted points that you want to make and use them to guide your conversation. Don’t hope or pray that the point you want to make comes up, but rather be proactive and strategic in your messaging. This will help make a positive first impression over the phone and, in turn, increase the odds that you will get a face-to-face meeting, which is essential to building meaningful relationships and increasing your bottom line.

--It begins with a smile followed by a firm and genuine handshake. I’m not saying you should walk around with a silly grin on your face that has people feeling uncomfortable, but what’s wrong with greeting people as if you are glad to be alive or at least glad to be where you are at that particular moment? Glad to be on that job interview. Glad to be in this business meeting. Many people don’t even know that their negative attitude gives off such a terrible first impression that before they even say a word, the dye has been cast.

--A genuine interest in others. Many have said; “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” People often feel good about others when they make them feel good about themselves. Try asking someone how his business is holding up. Or, what is happening with his children and spouse. Now THAT will help you make a really good first impression.