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How to Always Leave a Great First Impression

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How to Always Leave a Great First Impression

Why the First Impression Matters

The first impression is obviously the first thing that occurs in any social interaction. Do you convey confidence? Self-assurance? When people talk to you they instantly judge you and decide whether or not they will like you. Due to this natural inclination, you need to always leave a solid first impression because you never know what will happen—perhaps you’ll make an amazing friend, or doors will open for you in the future.

Remember that approaching random people for conversation is an amazing skill to have. Not only does it expand your social circle, it makes you more comfortable with social interaction in general. If you’re able to strike up a legitimate conversation with someone you don’t know, imagine how amazing you’d feel when talking to someone you’re already familiar with?

Many times I have walked up to someone I did not know, looked them in the eye while extending my hand, and then introduced myself. You’d be surprised how receptive people are of spontaneous contact. I’d argue that every time you initiate contact with a stranger, you’ve made their day because they feel special, and wondered why they were the one you chose to engage.

They always leave thinking that they’ve just met a very influential person; someone fearless.

Personally, I feel I do a very good job with first impressions. I chalk this up to many subtle social observations that I’ve tweaked over the years and still put to practice on a near-daily basis. You can learn this too, but first let’s take a few things into consideration.

When you meet someone, there are things you should always take into account, such as the context of the meeting (personal or business) and what they are doing at the moment of initiation. You should tweak your approaches based on these two things. When in a more casual and personal setting, you probably don’t want to be as formal as you would with a new potential employer. Also, you never want to make someone stop everything they’re doing just to speak to you if you’ve never met them before. It’s rude, and no one likes to be interrupted.

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Now that you havethat down, here are some things to always put into practice when meeting someone for the first time.

Body Language

One of the most overlooked aspects of social interaction is non-verbal communication. Whether you realize it or not, you instantly make judgments and create pre-conceived notions about everyone you see. You can just tell if someone is confident or not by examining the way they carry themselves—whether it’s the way they walk, stand, or by how open their body language is.

Knowing this, let’s use this to our advantage.

Touch

First thing, be comfortable with touch. Touch is powerful and even if you’re not a touchy person, the first contact is still necessary. Always, always introduce yourself by name then extend your hand for a handshake. It doesn’t matter if it’s a female or male, you shake their hand confidently and not like a loose fish. There’s nothing worse than a dead handshake.

Remember to portray power and confidence in your handshake. You’ll sometimes see surprise in people’s eyes after a good handshake because a lot of people are used to limp offerings. If they give you a dead handshake then that’s okay; grab it firmly anyways and shake. Just be careful not to squeeze too hard because you don’t want to break their hand. I know a guy who does it incredibly hard; he’s possibly compensating for something.

Posture

Next, you should always be mindful of your body’s posture. For example, try your best not to slouch because it sends off cues that you lack confidence or are rather lazy, neither of which are attractive qualities. Always stand tall even though it’s very difficult at first; standing up straight does get easier over time. Walk tall, stand tall, and sit tall. Always.

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Okay, so now that you’re standing tall, people that see you will instantly perceive you as being more confident. When you meet someone new, they’ll notice your posture and you’ll score free points, and of course your friends will notice and wonder why you’re so confident these days.

Keep Your Body Open

In addition to keeping yourself tall, you want your body language to be open and approachable. This means not crossing your arms across your chest, not speaking to someone with your body angled away from them, and make sure your facial expressions aren’t angry.

I understand that some people’s “default” face has a less than ideal look; mine looks sad, apparently. When I need to take my sad face off, I usually think of something humorous and a smile will naturally form itself. Try it out.

Genuinely Be Interested

I love talking to other people and I genuinely invest my attention in their stories. It’s important to develop an actual interest in getting to know other people and your face will naturally brighten up as they tell you their story. There’s no faking this. Well, that’s not true. The point is, it’s much easier to look like you care if you actually do—people can sense your energy and often respond based on the feedback they get from you.

Read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It has a very silly title that sounds like a how-to guidebook for losers, but that is definitely not the case. It’s a very valuable self-help book, one of the most popular actually. Carnegie teaches you how to actually be interested in people and even talks about a few interesting psychological effects. One of them is called the “Ben Franklin” effect.

Sounds awesome right? It really is. Basically, one day Benjamin Franklin realized that when someone else does a favor for you, they both are more willing to do so again in the future and they have a tendency to like you more.

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That seems crazy, but the psychology behind it is very fascinating and it’s an example of cognitive dissonance. To put it simply, what’s going on their head sounds a lot like this. “Wait, why am I doing this favor for him? That must mean I like him because why else would I do a favor for him? I only do favors for people I like so therefore I like him.” Obviously that dialogue isn’t literally running through their mind, but that’s the general idea.

Try asking someone to hold something for you as you tie your shoe, open a door for you, or watch your expensive $1,200 Macbook while you use the restroom (results may vary.)

Actively Listen, Focus on Them

More insight from Dale Carnegie’s book stresses the importance of active listening. A lot of people often blank out or eagerly wait for the other person to stop talking so they can jump in and talk about what they want to. That’s not active listening.

Everyone adores talking about themselves, some more than others. Carnegie stresses that when you are a good listener, people enjoy your company much more.

You want to give your complete attention to everything they say, nod as they speak, and look interested like I mentioned before. You want to be able to recall details from their story.

Occasionally repeat keywords they used because it shows that you’re really listening.

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“There is this amazing sushi restaurant on Harbor.”

“Amazing sushi?”

If you focus on the other person instead of yourself, you’re bound to make a great first impression and you will be labeled as a good listener.

Now that you have some of my tricks for making a great first impression, get out there and make some connections! You can use these in a personal and business setting, just make sure to tweak as you find necessary based off of the context of the situation.

More by this author

Vincent Nguyen

Founder of Growth Ninja

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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