Making a great impression involves a split-second assessment of the other person. Things such as appearance, voice, handshake, eye contact, deportment, body language and facial expressions go to make up our impression. But you can be sure that, just as you make hundreds of these judgements every day, so you yourself are being assessed and judged. So ensure that you are not found wanting.
The signs of creepiness are indisputable and universally acknowledged: standing too close, touching strangers too frequently, inability to make eye contact, sweaty and limp handshakes, lack of facial expressions. But conversely, over-compensation can be equally unsettling – over-exaggerated facial reactions, laser-like eye contact and vigorous hand-pumping.
As in all things, the way to make a great impression is the middle way. You should never look as if you are trying too hard, but you should aim for an air of relaxed ease. Listen carefully, even if your companion is an out-and-out bore, don’t interrupt, and maintain an air of interest. Never let your eyes drift to more interesting people, conversations or objects.
Try not to fidget or fiddle. Don’t play with your hair or beard, and try to avoid touching your face, for example putting a hand over your mouth or rubbing your eyes. Picking at your nails, or even worse, biting them, is a real no-no. Turn away to cough or sneeze, preferably into a tissue, or failing that, into the crook of your elbow, never your hand.
Wherever possible, stand when being introduced to a new person.
Keep your distance, don’t intrude into personal space and don’t touch the other person. Keep your facial expression reasonably animated and – unless the subject matter is deadly serious – try and keep smiling. Stand up straight, no slouching.
Above all, eliminate all signs of self-consciousness. Looking as if you’re hyper-aware of the impression you’re making is the worst mistake of all.