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As the saying goes, you never get another chance to make a first impression. When it comes to meet people when networking in person OR online, first impressions are everything. Get it right, and everything becomes easy. Get it wrong and you are pushing water uphill with a sieve. In this blog post I consider how to create a great first impression, regardless of where you first meet.

Most people meet you first online

This article is actually a version of an article I wrote 7 years ago. (That makes me feel very old now!). In the original article I only discussed the first impression you make whilst meeting someone in person. However, the reality is that now you are more likely to meet someone first online rather than in person.

This means your online appearance needs just as much care and attention as your offline appearance. Typically when someone checks you out online they will google your name and look you up on LinkedIn, and possibly Twitter and Facebook. If someone did this for you, what would they find? What would they think?

If you are like the majority of lawyers, accountants and consultants I meet, your LinkedIn profile will probably be looking a little unloved and in much need of a decent tidy up and some care and attention. Remember, you control your LinkedIn profile, so can control the first impression that you are giving to most people.

Do you need to be your authentic self when networking?

Many people will warble on about you have to be your authentic self when meeting people, and get that right, and you will make the right impression.  They are sort of right… but what happens if your authentic self, doesn’t make a great first impression? To help create the right first impression, regardless of how you are feeling inside at that very moment or your natural state, you want to aim to come across warm, positive and confident. An easy way to do this is to offer your handshake first, give them a warm smile and be positive and enthusiastic.

Don’t create the wrong impression with your handshake

When I talk about handshakes, there is nothing worse than a wet fish handshake OR a bone-crushing handshake which leaves you gasping for breath. If you don’t know how your handshake is perceived, test it out on friends and get their feedback.

Appearances do count

How do I put this delicately? Appearances do count, and stereotypes do exist. If you think of a lawyer, you expect to see a well-tailored suit and a neat appearance. Lawyers take note; however much you want to break out of the mould, a well-fitting suit is probably necessary for your credibility. As many image consultants will tell you, details are important. Chipped nail polish or dirty nails is a no-no, as is missing buttons from a coat, or messy hair. If you have young children, do carefully check your appearance in the mirror before you go out, baby sick down the back is a ‘no-no’!

And lastly, prepare your introduction

If you look good (online and offline), and have a confident handshake, then the battle for the right first impression is nearly won. The last piece of the jigsaw is how you introduce yourself. For many professionals, a big trap is waiting for them, when asked (the almost standard question at a networking event), ‘so what do you do?’ Do you confess and say, I’m an accountant… lawyer… coach…  and fall into the trap. Or do you describe what you do by the value you bring to your clients?

The right answer, is to have the one sentence sound bite prepared, which succinctly (yes, succinctly) talks about the value you bring to your clients. It wouldn’t surprise you to know that my sound bite goes like this… “I help professional advisors gain better business results for less effort”. Many people worry that if they use this type of opening, people wouldn’t know what they do. I can see that this is a genuine concern, however, in my experience, whenever this type of opening is used, the next question is ‘oh, that sounds interesting, how do you do that?’. And then you are off, the conversation is started, and you have moved straight into a business conversation. Voila!