Last Updated on April 30, 2024 by Lorna Barrow


cover image for how to make a winning first impression


I understand the importance of making a winning first impression.


Even more important, I know that when you want to make a big impact or win some business, it counts even more.


So when I saw a slide presentation in my favourite “” entitled “14 Ways to make a great first impression without saying a word”,  I eagerly dived right in.


It turned out that I simply do not agree with much of the advice in the presentation. This was not because I have any issues with the author. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know her. So to protect her identity, I did not link to the article.


I disagree because I think that much of the advice which she shared might not work for the present generation and certainly not for a small business person, looking to establish his or her individuality. By the way, here is some advice to help you differentiate your services and improve your first impression.


So I decided to take the advice given in her slide share and use it as the basis on which to share my own advice on how to make a big impact with a first impression. In this way, you will have two views to choose from.


The bottom line is, making a winning first impression when you do business is critical to a small business person, especially one who is in the competitive coaching, consulting or training niche.


So if you’re ready, you will learn how you can make a big impact with a winning first impression.


And in addition, if you stick with me, I will reward you with 2 free gifts, right in this post which you will find very helpful. 


So here we go…read on and be sure not to miss your gifts…


1.  No matter what, be on time presentation:

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, without good reason.


HOWEVER, having arrived on time for a first meeting with a client, after I have waited 10 minutes, and no one offers me an excuse, I am gone. This has a big impact on the potential client. They learn that I am serious and professional, that I won’t let them waste my time and that I won’t be disrespected. It also makes for a good reset the second time around. 


2.  Look the part for a good first impression presentation:

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 make you uncomfortable and prevent you from making 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. 


3.  Get in a good mood presentation:

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.


To keep me in a good mood, 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 anywhere so I may not have the time to “get in a good mood” when I meet him or her.


4.  Smile – a good tool for a first impression presentation:

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, friendly 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 all the time and no one goes around demanding that men smile?


5.  Make eye contact presentation:

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. How I make it while I’m listening is determined by how often I make notes while I’m listening. 


Trying to put a percentage on making eye contact or having to choreograph it, seems a little ridiculous to me.


6.  Practice your handshake presentation:

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 great first impression…


7.   Standing up straight helps to make a good first impression presentation:

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. This means that standing up straight might be difficult, so don’t go judging a person on their posture alone.


8.  Use open body language presentation:

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 to and read all these instruction about body language. Since I train and coach Public Speaking, I have some idea of the importance of body language.  But I have to tell you, to me, some of the interpretations of what people do with their bodies is a load of bovine feces. 


Sometimes, 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 darn confident, open and receptive.


9.  Follow, don’t precede presentation:

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, it‘s more a case of convenience. Naturally, if this is your first meeting in the location, you don’t go stumbling around a place you’re not familiar with.  


10.  Lean slightly forward presentation:

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. 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 first impression?


11.  Point your feet at the other person presentation:

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?


12.  Be a mirror presentation:

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


My position: 

Whaloss! (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’s 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.


13.  Respect personal space helps to make a good first impression presentation:

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 behaviour like kissing and hugging as a form of greeting when you are now meeting someone for the first time. And don’t forget things such as using stationery etc, belonging to someone you’ve now met without their permission.


14.  Focus on the other person presentation:

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...


Your next “first impression” steps 

So I have laid it out for you…’s concept of how to make a great first impression and compared it with my ideas of how to make a winning one.


Chances are, there is support for both positions and that’s just fine. 


But here’s what I want you to think about…


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, could result in you attracting and connecting with the wrong people, something you do not want.


For example, having chosen strong core 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 just be me.


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 winning first impression…



How to Make A Winning First Impression In Business

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!

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