Let’s face it – meeting new people, and especially important people – can be terrifying.  What do I say?  Will they notice I only put half effort into my hair this morning?  What if the conversation lags?  What if my face betrays me?  What if I don’t sound smart enough?

Well, I have one thing to say to those negative self thoughts… WHAT IF YOU KILL IT??

Seriously, it’s time to start cutting yourself off mid-negative thought and inject some positive what ifs.  What if you make a great first impression?  What if that person is dormantly your future boss?  What if this connection leads to another connection that leads to meeting your future partner?  What if the friendship that forms from this meeting leads to the kind of support you need to finally launch your own business?  What if this conversation enlightens you on a topic you’ll be able to pull out and impress at a later date? 


The positive what ifs should be just as dominant as the negatives in your head.  It’s okay if they are forced.  Just push them in there! 

The truth is, we all suffer from the ‘what ifs’ sometimes.  What sets leaders and changemakers apart from the crowd is that they don’t let the negative what ifs get them down.  They interject the positive what ifs and then rock those social interactions.  Yes, even introverts.  In fact, some of the better social climbers I know of are introverts.  It’s all about focusing less on what your natural reaction is and focusing more on what you’ve got to offer and what could come of it.

Of course, there are ways to boost your confidence naturally, as well as impress the socks off of the people you’re talking to.  These tips and tricks work just as well with a Walmart employee as the CEO of a big media company.  Many of these won’t come naturally at first, but you’ll notice that they’re all things that can be practiced at home and simply whipped out later, as needed.  It will get easier and more natural with time, too. 


Look Your Best

Every day.  Every time.  This can be exhausting.  But it is 100% worth it.  Think of it as an extra 15 minutes a day to make 150% of a better impression in all interactions throughout the day. 

You will glow.  You will exude confidence.  There will be a pep in your step.  Or else you’re doing it wrong…

This doesn’t mean you need to spend two hours doing your hair and makeup everyday.  In fact, do not spend much time on your appearance daily.  Do research optimal beauty routines for your body/hair/skintype and get fast at one look that you can do really well.  Don’t forget simple jewelry.  Don’t forget to change out of your commuter shoes once you get to work.  Don’t stop blow drying your hair early to save two minutes when you know it will frizz up within two seconds of straightening it.  Do cut your hair into a style you equally love if it’s going to save you time and effort.  Do wash your hair only once every 3 days if you can pull it off.  But also do a retouch every morning so your hairstyle looks fresh every day. 

I think you get the idea… 

When done right, this looking your best process starts before you even buy a piece of clothing.  It starts when you’re imagining what you want to look like in a year or two.  When you find inspiration pieces on Pinterest, and don’t settle until you find similar quality pieces.  When you don’t buy a single piece that doesn’t flatter your body and fit fantastically.  When you take time and carefully launder each piece of clothing to keep them in optimal condition.  When you steam your outfit the night before or earlier in the week so it’s crisp and fresh.  It’s keeping a fresh haircut and your eyebrows and nails well-groomed.  And then it’s also when you put on sophisticated makeup, simple jewelry, a multi-piece outfit, maybe even a matching purse. 

But at the end of the day, it’s what you feel is your best.  Whatever that is, do it and stick with it!


Steer the conversation where you want it to go

The second best tip I’ve got is ensuring the conversation goes where you lead it.  When you’re shy about adding to the conversation, you’re likely to get stuck attempting to talk about something you either know nothing about or have no interest in.  Whereas if you take charge, you’ll get to talk about things that may benefit you in the end that will also be interesting to your listener.  An example:

“Hi Anne, how are you today?”

“So great Ashley, thanks for asking!  I just closed a huge deal for my new business and I’m so excited to see this project come to fruition.”

“Oh really?  Tell me more!”

The above is super simple but I can tell you that that sort of interaction works really well every single time.  These two women will chat about Anne’s business for at least a few minutes, and Ashley will learn all about that business and what Anne is passionate about.  

Sharing anecdotes is a great way to earn trust fast in a new relationship.  You don’t want to story vomit all over them – keep it classy – but don’t be afraid to open up a little.  You can even share something humbly impressive.  Don’t brag, but saying that you’re excited about your first trip to Mexico because you grew up of humble means and have never left the country before is perfectly okay.  Sharing what drives you is equally great, or steering the conversations toward something you know a lot about.

The point is that you need to take charge of the conversation at least a little bit to ensure you’re positioning yourself to make a steady contribution.  This doesn’t mean you need to hog the conversation – make sure the other party is genuinely interested and actively contributing, too.  But then talk!  It’s the driver of connections. 


Compliment the people around important people

I know this sounds disingenuous but it’s not unless it is.  When you’re not so wrapped up in just the person you’re aiming to impress, you’ll notice that usually the people around them are genuinely great, too.  Or maybe equally douchy, but I digress…

Getting in good with the wife/husband, son/daughter, best friend, business partner, or other acquaintances of an important person is a sure fire way to be remembered.  When your boss’s wife says, “That Anne from HR, she seems so sweet.  Did you know that she loves antiquing, too?” after the party, your name is likely to come up again and again.  It might stop there, but you equally might end up invited over for house parties or who knows what else.  The same applies to business partners, friends, or other family members.  Get them talking about you as a couple/group and that important person will be more likely to come to you again in the future. 


Use Your Hands to Communicate

Waving your hands around and accenting your voice with movement will leave an impression of full confidence and also help keep the attention of people around you naturally.  Think of it like visual/physical punctuation.  On paper you have periods and commas and semicolons.  In interactions, you have your hands.  It makes your voice more effective and will leave a deeper impression on those you’re speaking with.

It will also keep you from doing any nervous twitching with them – bonus!


Keep Good Posture at All Times

Stand up straight.  Sit up straight.  No slumping or bending over.  I just straighten up a bit at the coffee shop I’m writing at.  Posture is super important.  I highly recommend practicing this at home in front of a mirror – the visual reinforcement is necessary to get it right.  And when you’re with other people and realize you’re slouching, don’t readjust too fast and call attention to it… readjust slowly and surely and confidently and you’ll soon begin to love how it makes you feel. 

Walk tall.  Be powerful.  Exude confidence.  

Standing up straight helps you look less frumpy, more chiseled, with an elongated neck and a sharp jawline.  If you don’t want that, I can’t help you…

For the sake of clarification, when I say to sit up or stand up straight, I don’t mean straight as a pencil and inflexible.  You neither want to try too hard nor too little.  Again, practicing in the mirror will help you understand how your body looks its most natural.  


Use Strong Body Language

You want to be purposeful about the emotions and thoughts you are sharing with the world via your body language.  First of all, avoid nervous twitches and do not touch your face.  Very few people can pull off face touches that are engaging instead of looking bored or nervous.  Avoid tapping your hands or fingers on anything, or stretching any muscles.  

Do keep a steady and genuine smile on your face.  Stare that person in the eyes.  Engage in the conversation.  Make thoughtful faces when that makes sense in the conversation.  Keep your shoulders open and facing the person you’re conversing with.  Nod occasionally.  A genuine laugh can never hurt.  


BONUS:  Avoid all negativity traps.

No one wants to engage in negative topics.  Even people who do love that will respect you for sticking with positive subjects.  Don’t be dramatic about it, but just keep steering the conversation toward positive subjects, if necessary.  People subconsciously attract toward people who bring only light to their world.  Be that person to other people as often as possible.

With these tips and tricks I’m quite certain you’ll start killing all first impressions.  Once you practice in the mirror and out loud a few times, it’s time to try it out!  Walk up to someone – anyone – that you don’t know and strike up a conversation.  Practice steering the conversation where you want it to go, reacting genuinely, keeping open body language, and inching your way to the top of the social ladder.  

You’ll be amazed at how far you’ll come in a short amount of time.


Want to learn more about this or similar topics?  Shoot your thoughts to ideas@helloascent.com – what you want to know is exactly what I want to write about.