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Create Great First Impression

If there are some aspects of your industry/profession that are perceived negatively, the smart people address this subtly with their appearance. For example:
• Those involved in detail-intensive industries (accountancy, engineering, etc) can often be (unjustly) perceived as staid, impersonal and caring little for their appearance. So, it could be clever to show more style in their apparel.
• Those involved in the creative industries (architecture, advertising, etc) may be perceived by some as creative but lacking business acumen, so it may pay to dress less flamboyantly for those clients.

Above all, dress to show your respect of those you are meeting. In 2013, Apple were trying to set up deals with cable companies to access streaming content for its Apple TV product. The executive in charge of the negotiation, Eddy Cue, got this horrendously wrong in a meeting with Time Warner. Now, Eddy was obviously taking into account the client’s expectation with a representative of Apple – witness Steve Job’s standard garb of black T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Eddy turned up in Hawaiian shirt, jeans and tennis shoes without socks. It looked like he had just dropped in on his way to a holiday. Needless to say, there was no deal.

Impression of Difference
To create a memorable first impression, you need a point of difference. This might be in your appearance, or it might be in what you say. Easy options for difference are:
• Your handshake (if appropriate). Firm (but not too firm!) dry and held for three seconds. If you feel comfortable you might employ your left hand to clasp the back of their hand to create the two-handed shake or touch them lightly on the right elbow as you shake.
• Your opening words. Be warm, clever (but not too clever) and avoid clichés.
• Pay them a sincere compliment. Everyone loves to be complimented and it takes such little effort to give one. If you feel uncomfortable complimenting their appearance, compliment the questions they ask (“What a clever question.” “You’re very perceptive”), their profession or organisation.
• The way you describe what you do. I will always remember the receptionist who was entitled ‘Director of First Impressions’.

Impression of Intent
First impressions are based on impression of your intent and, for most of us, this cannot be faked. My first impression of you is likely to be negative if I perceive that your intent is to:
• Sell me something
• Assess the potential value of a relationship with me
• Tell me how good you (or your company) are
• Get information out of me that you can later use