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How to Make an Amazing First Impression

By Kristine Penning,


First impressions can happen anywhere—a networking event, a career fair, or a job interview. One thing they all have in common is that they are brief. They say that it takes just seven seconds to make a “first impression.” How can you make sure it’s a good one in so brief an instance?

Here are seven easy ways to make a great first impression in seven seconds:

  1. Smile!

    How simple and predictable, right? Well you certainly won’t get terribly far if you greet someone with a frown on your face. Smiling shows you are a positive person, you are happy to be where you are, and you are excited about meeting someone new. It also creates a welcoming presence and comfortability. Greet someone new with a genuine grin and you’re sure to leave an impression.

  2. The Handshake

    This is the obvious next step, but it’s often passed up or done incorrectly. Not offering to shake hands sends the message that you are disgusted with the person you are meeting, making you appear snobby. A weak handshake has a very similar effect, though also adding perceived disinterest to the mix. However, avoid too tight of a grip as well. Don’t crush your new contact’s hand. A solid, gently firm handshake sends the message that you are delighted to meet someone and that you are polite.

  3. Look Them in the Eyes

    Coming off the handshake, be sure to resume eye contact after you’ve linked hands. Show them that you are listening and interested when they introduce themselves. Continue to give eye contact as you converse. With all things, don’t overdo it, but don’t be looking off to the side or away from them either. This sends the message that you don’t respect them or are distracted.

  4. “Nice to meet you.”

    Whether you’ve been introduced or are introducing yourself, follow your greeting and name by allowing your new connection to share their greeting and name. Then tell them that you’re glad to meet them. Repeating their name also goes a long way, as it may help you remember their name later, and also sends the message that you are listening and care about them.

  5. Clear & Confident

    I’m guilty of getting my words jumbled when I meet new people. Speak calmly and slow down a bit. If you’ve introduced yourself and misspoken a few words or rammed them together, try calmly repeating yourself again. Speak with confidence and give your new contact a reason to listen to you.

  6. Body Language

    As you withdraw from your initial introduction, don’t fold into yourself. Keep your arms and hands relatively open at your sides. Nod and continue smiling to show that you are interested and engaged. This will keep up your great first impression to get you through that seven-second mark and into smooth-sailing territory.

  7. Have Something to Say

    It can be difficult to not feel like a third wheel in the conversation between a mutual contact and a new one. Ask a question of your new contact, if possible, or answer confidently but also humbly about yourself if they ask a question. Try not to make small talk if this is a one-on-one conversation. Be ready to ask good questions and share information about yourself.



Need a few more ideas to get the networking conversation started? Find out how to make great small talk in this blog.