It’s hard to understate the value of a good first impression (or the impact of a poor one). While it’s certainly possible to change someone’s opinion of you after they’ve met you, it’s anything but easy. Better to start off strong. Let’s discuss how you can do just that.

By Aman Advani

It only takes three seconds for someone to judge you as a person after meeting you for the first time. Three seconds to color the rest of your interactions with them for years to come, be they a client, colleague, or business partner. And while it’s certainly possible to undo a bad first impression, it’s also incredibly difficult.

You’re better off putting your best foot forward right off the start.

To that end, much of how you come across is tied to your appearance. You’ll obviously want to make sure you’re well-groomed and well-rested, to start. Beyond that, you’ll want to consider a few things.

First, think about the sort of event your attending. Are you meeting with a client, speaking to a business partner, performing a keynote presentation, or going to a networking event? You’ll want to dress a little differently in each scenario.

  • For most business meetings, a fitted suit and tie with a matching pair of slacks and well-maintained shoes is your best bet. You want to appear sharp, professional, polished, and commanding – and a suit is by far the best way to come across as such.
  • As an exception to the above rule, if you’re an entrepreneur that presents a particular image – say, for example, you work in a creative field – you’ll want to reflect that in your wardrobe. A smart-looking collared shirt or flannel with high-quality jeans and a nice pair of shoes is likely all you’ll need there.
  • For networking events, you’ll want to stand out a bit more. You probably still want to show up in business attire, but you’ll also want to ensure you come across as a bit more casual and approachable. Consider adding a few personal touches to your outfit – an eye-catching watch, a cool satchel/purse, or some distinctive shoes. That said, pay attention to how other people are dressed – you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard.
  • Keynote presentations are all about your audience. Watch a few, and you’ll see what we mean here. From TED Talks to product launches, every presentation is a little different. A good rule of thumb is that you want to be as put-together as the best-dressed person in the room.

Outfits aside, there’s also the question of color. Everyone has certain shades and hues that fit them like a glove, so the most important advice here is to know your color match. Beyond that, bear in mind that different colors have different connotations.

As a general rule, however, you can’t go wrong with black. It goes with just about everything, conveying power, polish, and prestige. Match it with a decent accent piece, and you’ll be sure to look sharp and stylish wherever you’re bound.

Outfit aside, your body language also makes a huge difference when it comes to leaving a good impression on the people you meet. Always carry yourself with confidence, and wear a smile on your face whenever possible. Speak clearly and concisely, maintain eye contact when speaking, and make an active effort to keep your body language open – uncrossed arms and legs, angling yourself towards the people you’re speaking to, and so on.

Beyond that, simply pay attention to the people you’re talking to. Listen in conversations, and make it clear that you actually care about their presence. If you’re only at a trade show or attending a business meeting to get something out of someone, people are pretty good at picking up on that.

That’s more or less it. For all their importance, first impressions aren’t actually that hard if you know what you’re doing. Provided you put yourself together well, bear in mind who you’re meeting, and focus on being yourself, you’ll do just fine.

Aman Advani is the CEO and Cofounder at Ministry of Supply.

First impression stock photo by fizkes/Shutterstock