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Finessing Your First Impression

So your presentation is all set. You’re about to walk in the door. How do you make that ideal first impression?

Whenever you make a new acquaintance, that person forms decisions about you. This is natural human behaviour: we take in the visual picture, the way the person moves, the tone of voice, and we come to some conclusions. Are you leveraging these elements to bring people to the right conclusions about you?

It’s important to remember that first impressions are formed instantly. So what does that mean for you?

It means your presentation begins when you enter the building, not when you stand up to present. People are assessing you in the lift, at the reception and, especially, as you walk into the boardroom. 

The second you enter the building, check yourself. How are you standing? What are your movements like? Carry yourself intentionally. Open the door slowly. Walk through it confidently, taking steps that allow you to maintain good carriage. Be purposeful in your gestures. Put your materials down deliberately. Then lift your head and confidently make eye contact as you greet people. Make sure you greet each person ONE at a time. For those few seconds, focus on that person. No looking over to the next person in line.

A few more tips to ace that opening moment…

Be friendly!

It sounds so simple, but it has to be said. SMILE. When you smile, you’ll put your client at ease.

Repeat the name

Repeat the person’s name as soon as he tells it to you. On a very primitive level, he’ll feel more special. Management guru Dale Carnegie said the sweetest sound to any man’s ear is the sound of his own name. I promise you, this applies to both genders.

Prepare some small talk

The simplest small talk is situational. Talk about the setting. You’re both in it, so it’s the easiest place to start. Compliment their offices, or gaze at the magnificent view together. Use this little bit of common ground to make the other person comfortable. You can also talk about their business or market developments that affect them. Keep your focus on the client. Talk about things that interest her, and she’ll find you more interesting. When you’re at a loss for conversation, ask open-ended questions. This simple rapport-building tactic will ensure your client’s attention doesn’t flag and you’ll have enough small talk to carry you through until you’re ready to start the meeting.

Remember when I said your presentation begins when you enter the building? Well, here’s the best part of that principle. Because you hit the ‘on’ button as you walked through the door, you’ve been ‘presenting’ for the last ten or fifteen minutes. So as you begin your ‘presentation’, you are already in high gear. Your executive presence, clear voice and confident body language will deliver for you from the moment you step to the front of the room.

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