Whether it’s a sales call, an interview, or chance meeting with someone you want to know better, there are things you can do to leave a positive and lasting first impression. Check out these quotes from a dozen executives who give their advice on how to do it.
1. Make a connection, not an impression.
“The ‘fake it ’til you make it’ adage is a trap: be transparent and be yourself. Rather than attempting to make a good first impression, think about how you can make a human connection. Speaking to an executive shouldn’t feel like speaking to a robot. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you’re making a step toward building an authentic relationship and the most impactful conversations bloom as a result.”
–Elliot Tomaeno, founder and CEO of ASTRSK PR, a New York City-based PR agency
2. Be confident, upfront and informed.
“Straight shooters who call it like they see it, and who can speak candidly and substantively about relevant topics of discussion always leave me with a strong first impression. Whether I agree or disagree doesn’t really matter. Thoughtfulness and seriousness around subjects combined with the confidence to candidly speak up is rarer than it should be. Don’t BS or tell people what you think they want to hear–just be honest.”
–Michael Bruch, CEO and founder of social app Willow
3. Just be yourself.
“I like interviewing candidates that shine… by showing who they actually are and how they can be asset to your team. I like people who are sincere and who [are] genuinely curious towards the world.”
–Zhifei Li, founder and CEO of Mobvoi, the only firm in China equipped with its own Chinese voice recognition, semantic analytics, and search technology
4. Foster a warm countenance.
“No matter your role in a company, greeting your peers with a warm smile is imperative. Whether you’re a top executive at a company running the show or an intern just trying to make it, enthusiasm can leave a lasting impression. It doesn’t take much time out of your day–even a simple smile in the elevator to a stranger can go a long way.”
–Dr. Jeffrey Rappaport, cofounder and CEO of Afora, a dental care membership plan
5. Outperform preconceptions.
“Understand what people’s stereotype is for someone of your background. And try to beat their expectation when you first meet.”
–Sarah Zhang, business lead and head developer of partnerships of Segway Robotics
6. Don’t be self-absorbed.
“Take a page from the world of dating: the best impressions are made when you stop talking about yourself so you can focus on them. Ask more questions than you answer. Sometimes when people want to impress me, they try to talk non-stop about what they think I’ll find impressive, and next thing I know I’m 20 minutes into hearing about their college lacrosse championship. It’s not a good look.”
–Jamie Hodari, cofounder and CEO of national coworking provider Industrious
“Even for business meetings, people forget how a smile can be impactful.”
–Fred Potter, founder and CEO of Netatmo, a smart indoor climate monitor
8. Be yourself and blunt when you need to.
“But if you have to think about it, it’s not working.”
–Brett Jurgens, cofounder and CEO of wireless home monitoring company Notion
9. Do whatever you need to do to be confident.
“Exercise, listen to your favorite music, and know your subject before you go to an important meeting. I remember the first B2B sales I was trying to close, the customer could see that I was stressed. You need to be relax and look like you know what you are talking about. At the end of the day the best way to achieve that is to be yourself. Your instinct knows better.”
–Louis Verspreeuwen, cofounder of aroma diffuser company Pilgrim Collection
10. Genuinely try to identify with people.
“Actually care about the other person and identify with them and their culture, rather than trying to get them to identify with you. [It’s] simple, except the caring part must be sincere or you’re at risk of being manipulative and seeing real people as mere resource for your agenda over helping them with theirs.”
–Greg Leekley, CEO and founder of the music app Vertigo
11. Don’t try to be who you think others want you to be.
“Always be yourself.”
–Grégory Veret, founder and CEO of device management company Xooloo
12. Find common ground.
“I’ve found that the key to a lasting first impression is to discuss a topic that both you and the person care about, ask insightful questions to better understand their point of view, and then provide a new perspective on their thinking based on your own experiences. This not only shows the person that you’re listening but also provides them with lasting value. At some point, if you need something from that person, not only will they remember you, but they will be happy to help.”
–Dan Veltri, cofounder and chief product officer of website hosting service Weebly