The moment you meet someone they will make thousands of mental notes and computations. In the first twenty seconds, their prehistoric survival mechanism decides whether you are friend or foe.
Whether you are interviewing someone, they are interviewing you or you are speaking to a crowd of thousands, these first twenty seconds, and the non verbal cues you provide are critical to your success in the interaction. You might be surprised to know, research has shown the non-verbal cues are actually four times as important as what you say. So as you’re sitting in the meeting trying to focus on what you are saying, remember to focus on what is actually four times as important – what you convey non-verbally .
So, what non-verbal cues can help you get that job, get that candidate you want or make the crowd love you?
- Overdressing is better than underdressing: What if James Bond walked up to the bar and ordered his martini in a hoodie. You recognize this just doesn’t seem appropriate for the situation. It doesn’t have the same power as formal attire. Recognize your audience and always try to dress at least their level or one level above. What if you dress for the person you’re meeting, they love you and want to introduce you to the CFO or even CEO. Is your dress appropriate to meet that person? On almost every occasion you would rather err on the side of being over dressed.
- Posture. Whether standing or sitting, think about your posture. When you first meet, are you standing tall. When you sit, even in the lobby before you meet, are you sitting up straight, or leaning back in the chair. From the lobby to the end of the meeting, sit as if you have a pole strapped to your back.
- Handshake. I shake so many hands in my profession and I am amazed how many people get this wrong. Perhaps out of nervousness, people just fail this first connection. So, as odd as it sounds, practice with a spouse or a friend until you get it right. Square your shoulders, look them in the eye, and grip stronger than you think you should. As with dressing, it is so much better to over do it.
- Eye Contact and Eye Brows. Eye contact matters and people fail it all the time. Sometimes they fail because they are in the subservient position in the relationship – they are interviewing, therefore they look down. So here is a trick: Identify their eye color. If you try to identify the eye color of the person you meet, you will have a much better chance of maintaining solid eye contact during this initial meeting. In addition, raise your eyebrows. This is called an “Eyebrow flash”. Usually it is unconscious. It is a universal signal of friendship and an offer for social interaction. An eyebrow flash lasts for less than a half a second, so don’t get weird with it or do it multiple times. Following your eyebrow flash, the other party will typically unconsciously mirror you unless you look away immediately so if you watch for the mirrored flash, you won’t accidentally look away.
- Smile. Another universal signal that “I’m a friend.”
- Lean forward but don’t be a close talker: A character in the television show Seinfeld was known as “the close talker.” He stood just a little too close. Lean forward but stay out of the comfort zone of the person you’re talking to. Typically about two to three feet.
- Act as if the person you meet is an old friend. This final step is so much easier today than it was twenty years ago. Before you meet the person you’re going to speak with, review their digital profiles. Get to “know them.” Then when you meet them, greet them with the familiarity of an old friend you haven’t seen in ten years. If you do this, almost all of the other six things will happen naturally. It will become a self fulfilling prophecy. They will imagine they have known you as well. You might find yourself hearing, “I feel like we’ve met somewhere before.” Because in their mind, they feel like they have had an interaction based on hey way you first interacted with them.
That’s it. seven ways to make a first impression that will land you a job or make a meeting go the way you would like it to go. Good luck.