It pays to make a good impression wherever you go, regardless of your field or where you are in your career.
Seeming friendlier and more professional can help you nail a job interview, successfully persuade potential investors, or simply broaden your network of contacts. John Rampton, entrepreneur and contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine, knows a thing or two about making a good first impression.
He has over 1.5 million Twitter followers and is a regular speaker at professional networking events. Business Insider spoke with Rampton about ways to be more memorable that anyone can implement:
It's natural to think you might have upwards of a few minutes, but Rampton pointed to research from Princeton which indicated that it only takes a tenth of a second for the average person to confidently judge traits like competence, trustworthiness, and likeability.
"That means you may not have time to even open your mouth before an impression is made, so make sure you’re dressed for the occasion, properly groomed, and smiling when you meet someone new," Rampton said.
Leading with a firm, confident handshake is a go-to piece of advice from armchair experts around the world, but scientific research validates its benefits.
A study from the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience shows that when people lead with a strong handshake, they're more positively received. "Your first interaction with anyone should be a handshake, and it can make or break your first impression," Rampton said.
"It's really that important. Don't be afraid to practice with a friend or family member and ask for honest feedback."
According to Rampton, many people try to dominate an initial conversation with a new person — they feel like silence is awkward, so they attempt to fill it as quickly as possible with a joke, an anecdote, or a unique perspective.
But this could make you come off as domineering or aggressive. "Rushing to fill the void of a new interaction can leave people with a negative impression," Rampton said.
He notes another tendency at networking events for some people to seem hurried in conversations, and attributes it to the societal trend of busy bragging.
"Business, more and more, is being seen as a status symbol, and it's being used to convey authority and importance in new interactions," Rampton said. "Resist the temptation to rush through the conversation. It's better to be comfortable with a bit of silence, and give the interaction time to shape up naturally."
A study from the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found a significant positive correlation between steady eye contact during a conversation and perceptions of intelligence.
“Keeping eye contact can not only make you seem friendlier and more confident, but more intelligent as well,” Rampton said.
“This is another thing that can take some practice, since it can be uncomfortable to hold sustained eye contact with someone you’ve just met.”
People tend to be more comfortable around others who share their physical characteristics or behavioural habits, as demonstrated from studies on service industry tips, sales, academic favours, and speed dating.
You can use this to your advantage by mirroring the body language, posture, and even the speaking tone of others. "Pay close attention to how they’re holding themselves, and how they speak," Rampton said.
"Don't engage in so much mimicry that you seem like a parrot, but do try to display the same emotions, and rely on similar forms of nonverbal expression."
The real secret is turning these actions and behaviours into habits. Once they become second nature to you, you won't have to think about them as much, and you'll effortlessly impress the people you meet in your day-to-day life.
Receive a single email every morning with all our latest news: Sign up here.
Also from Business Insider South Africa: