How to Make a Great First Impression

Behavioral research suggests that we make important judgments about other people within a few seconds of meeting them. Making a good impression on those you meet when business networking is imperative. Here are three suggestions, powered by science, to help you do just that.

1. Smile

It may take a bit of practice, but the science behind why we should learn to smile at complete strangers is compelling. One reason is that in the 1980s neuroscientists discovered "mirror neurons" in our brains. Put (very) simply, these activate when we see someone performing a particular behavior and results in us mentally mimicking the action and associated emotion.

Smiling at someone is likely to encourage them to smile, too. Because our emotions take their cue from others' physical statures, when you smile at someone, you are, in effect, helping that other person reach a better emotional state. And that can't be a bad way to start a conversation!

2. Look professional

Unconscious bias is a behavioral phenomenon whereby others make judgements about us (and vice versa) the moment they meet us. While, by definition, we cannot have total control over these perceptions, just knowing the kind of thing that can create them can be of real use.

The way you dress and your personal grooming impact directly on the bias people will have toward or against you. Just like a corporate brand, people will connect a myriad of judgements and emotions based on what they experience. While what is "stylish" or "fashionable" is subjective, having a hole in your shirt or dirty fingernails is not. Look your best __ it will have an important psychological impact on how others perceive you.

3. Shake hands slowly

It is the ubiquitous greeting at business events. And yet, how many of us get it right?

In 2011, German psychologist Sabine Kock conducted research on the best type of handshake, and her findings were clear. People rated those who had a smooth handshake far more highly than those with a sharp, jerky one. Kock's findings show that the speed and rhythm of how we "shake" is just as important as the strength and power that we use __ an area that is more usually focused on.

Jonathan Bradshaw is the CEO of the Meetology Lab, which helps maximize personal and professional performance by using cutting–edge psychology to empower people with exceptional interpersonal communication skills.