(Last Updated On: November 2, 2017)

Want to make a great first impression?

image showing a great first impression

First impression counts. And when you want to make a big impact, it counts even more.

So when I saw a slide presentation in my favourite “Inc.com” entitled “14 Ways to make a great first impression without saying a word” written by Minda Zetlin, I dived right in.

It turns out that I simply do not agree with much of the advice that was given. I don't disagree because I  have any issues with the author. As a matter of fact, I don't even know her. 

I disagree because in my opinion, much of the advice which she shared might cause you some difficulty in making the right first impression.

So I decided to share Minda Zetlin’s 14 ways to help you make a great first impression  and use these as the basis on which to share my advice on how to make a big impact with your first impression, so that at least you have two views to choose from.

Making a big impact with your first impression is critical to a small business person, especially one who is on the coaching, consulting or training business.

So if you're ready, let's see how you can make a big impact with your first impression. And when you're finished, discover how to make a big impact with your business.

Don't worry, this post is an altogether easy read...And I have included two tools to really help you at the end.


  1. No matter what, be on time

Minda Zetlin says:

You can ruin your relationship before you walk in the door if you arrive late--even with good reason. Excessive earliness is bad, too. Plan to arrive early, and then wait nearby until the right time.


My position: 

I agree with this and I am totally intolerant of lateness. within reason. HOWEVER, having arrived on time for a first meeting with a client, after I have waited 10 minutes, I am GONE. This makes a big impact on the client, letting them know I won't let them waste my time and that I won't be disrespected. It also makes a lasting impression.


  1. Look the part

Minda Zetlin says:

Your appearance is a big part of the impression you make, so make sure your attire is in line with expectations (neither too flashy, too dressy, nor too informal). Be well-groomed and avoid heavy perfumes or scents.


My position: 

You appearance is a big part of the impression you make. So dress to send the message you want. Dressing "in line with expectations" will NOT make a big impact.

For example, most of the time, I want to send the message that I am different, creative, top-of-the-line and not desperate for your business. This means that I have my own interpretation of corporate.  I wear solid gold or silver accessories almost exclusively and my clothes are unconventional without being outlandish. I discuss this in more detail here.


  1. Get in a good mood

Minda Zetlin says:

Your own state of mind makes a big difference to how you're perceived. Find a way to get in the right mindset: a few minutes of exercise, taking an expansive posture, or relaxing and taking deep breaths will all help.


My position: 

Say what?! You never know when you are going to want to impress someone for the first time, so part of your personal development is to make "having a good mood" a way of life.

By default, I exercise, I meditate and I hike. I believe that as a an Owner of several small businesses, my next customer is located every and any where so I may not have the time to "get in a good mood" when I meet him or her.


  1. Smile

Minda Zetlin says:

A happy smile is one of the most powerful tools there is for making a good first impression. This is one big reason to get in the right mood--most people are able to tell a pasted-on smile from a real one.


My position: 

I agree with her that a smile is a powerful tool for connecting and that most people can tell a real smile from a false one.

My advice: smile if and when there is reason to smile!  That's what I do and people's first impression of me is that I am genuine, honest and serious. That's how I am influential and that's how I make a big impact.

Moreover, have you noticed that women are expected and instructed to smile and no one goes around telling men to smile?


  1. Make eye contact

Minda Zetlin says:

Looking someone in the eye from the moment you meet tells the other person you're engaged and have nothing to hide. But don't stare. Make eye contact about half the time while speaking, and about 70 percent of the time while listening.


My position: 

I agree with the first sentence. But I have problems with the instructions which follow. I make eye contact as it feels natural while I am talking and depending on how many notes I am taking while I am listening. Trying to put a percentage on it seems a little ridiculous to me.


  1. Practice your handshake  image showing how to make a good impression with proper handshake

Minda Zetlin says:

A winning handshake can be tricky to get right. Too strong and it seems you're trying to prove something, too soft and you come across as weak. And don't add your left hand to the handshake, which can seem domineering.

My position: 

I believe she means " don't add your free hand, left or right, to the handshake. I agree with this but I think it can be regarded as overly familiar and not the best way to make a first impression...


  1.  Stand up straight

Minda Zetlin says:

Your  posture says a lot about you. Slouching or hunched shoulders can make you seem unhappy or unconfident. So work on your posture until standing straight and relaxed comes naturally.


My position: 

I agree. But bear in mind someone who is not standing up straight might have scoliosis or some other spinal problem, so don't go judging a person on their posture alone.


  1. Use open body language

Minda Zetlin says:

Your body language should convey that you're open and receptive. That means no crossed arms or legs, no hands behind your back or in pockets, and no holding things in front of you such as a portfolio or handbag.


My position: 

I listen and read all these instruction about body language. Since Public Speaking is one of the topics in which I provide training,  I have some knowledge of body language. To me lots of these instructions are so much bull.

Very often, these "folding arms" or "crossing legs" body language cues are just habits people developed over time. I have met people who did all these things and turned out to be pretty darned confident, open and receptive.


  1. Follow, don't precede

Minda Zetlin says:

If you're meeting someone on their turf, such as an office, allow that person to lead you to wherever you'll be meeting as a sign of polite deference. Don't walk ahead.


My position: 

I agree with this and I often do it. But NOT as polite deference since I don't do polite deference. It's more a case of convenience if this is my first meeting with the person since I don’t want to be stumbling around a place I don’t know well.


  1. Lean slightly forward

Minda Zetlin says:

Leaning very slightly toward another person, especially one who's speaking, signals attentiveness. But don't lean so far forward that you're slouching or cutting off your open body language.


My position: 

This is the same foolishness as #8 above.

You can easily signal your attention by sitting or standing quietly without fidgeting or nodding, etc. Furthermore, leaning forward can sometimes be uncomfortable for the listener and distracting for the speaker.

And how do you calculate the "leaning angle" at which you're making a great impression?


  1. Point your feet at the other person


Minda Zetlin says:

Our feet often betray our secret desires. Keep yours pointed at the person you're speaking with to show that you are happy to be there.


My position: 

LOL! What if I’m talking to 4 people at once? Do I shift my feet as I speak to each one? Am I allowed to wiggle my hips as I shift my feet from person to person?

And...should I spend the time when I am not making eye contact checking to see where the person who is speaking to me is pointing their feet to see if they are happy to be there?


  1. Be a mirror


Minda Zetlin says:

Reflecting back the other person's body language, position, and facial expressions will encourage him or her to bond with you.


My position: 

Wha loss! (Barbadian expression)

So the person speaking to me is behaving like a clown and I’m expected to reflect this back so I can bond with him or her?  Like we're in the same circus?  Sorry, it is a pity if you do not yet have your own authentic way of being and you’re past seven years old.

Reflecting back somebody’s body language to bond with them is as deceitful as pasting on a false smile and will definitely get in the way of your making a great impression or a big impact.


  1. Respect personal space


Minda Zetlin says:

Different people have different feelings about how much personal space is enough, and making another person feel crowded is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Err on the safe side by giving just slightly more space than you think they need.


My position: 

I agree with this. Just remember it includes things like kissing and hugging as a form of greeting when you are now meeting someone for the first time as well as using stationery etc, belonging to someone you’ve now met without their permission.


  1. Focus on the other person


Minda Zetlin says:

The advice in the previous 13 slides won't help if it makes you focus only on how you come across. Pay full attention to the person in front of you. That will make the best impression of all.


My position: 

This one left me somewhat confused. I thought all the advice was to help us to pay full attention to the person in front of us...


Pay attention people!


The best way to make a big impact with your first impression is to just be your AUTHENTIC SELF. This is what I coach my clients through every day.

As you go through life, doing the work that you are meant to do, you will connect with people who will like and admire you and some who will not. This is really quite normal.

Trying to use learned body language, posture, eye contact, etc to significantly influence this will result in you attracting and connecting with the wrong people more often than you want.

For example, having chosen the values which are important to me, having worked on my self-confidence and developed my self-esteem to the point where I love my "flaws", I am free to be...

Now here are the two tools I promised you. They are a self-esteem cheat sheet and a list of sample values. Enjoy them...

What you want to do is to use these to help you find your AUTHENTIC self and continue to work on being better at being you!

To your big impact...


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How to Make a Big Impact With Your First Impression

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an easy-to-read Writer, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She uses her crazy personality and vast business experience to connect with small business owners and entrepreneurs. Then she helps them to acquire the skills and confidence they need to make a BIG impact with their businesses. Get her FREE Fast Learning Resource "7 Unique Skills to Make a BIG impact In Business!" and kickstart your BIG impact!

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