Are you in a client-facing role? Do you have a boss? Are there people out there who can impact your future? OK, everyone can lower their hands now.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make it count.
Here's a primer for boosting your presence from meeting number one - and maintaining it well beyond.
1. If you're not five minutes early, you're late.
For most people, especially busy people, time is their most-precious resource. No one ever leaves a meeting and says "I wish that had taken longer" or "If only so-and-so and spoken for another half-hour..."
Treat people's time with respect. Show up a few minutes ahead of time, stay on point, and wrap up early. They will thank you.
"What if I'm just calling them or sending someone an email?" Same rules apply. Be brief - make it easy on them. Self-editing is a gift to your listeners and readers.
2. Shake hands. Right.
There's really no downside to shaking hands upon first meeting someone - as long as you do it right. Right = nothing creepy or weird. Be firm, but don't break their fingers.
Here's a quick how-to for the handshake shy.
3. Look them in the eye.
Even if you're a naturally shy person, making strong eye-contact is a must. It's correlated to credibility and confidence.
Think about it: if you meet someone new and they continually look at the floor or their eyes dart around all the time you, likely don't walk away with a great impression.
Strong eye contact also prompts the other person to listen, engage, and be fully present in your conversation. And that's your goal.
4. Sit up - and speak up.
Slouching makes you look bored and disengaged. Sit up and look engaged. Before you even say anything, you'll be projecting your best possible self.
Mumbling can make even the most confident of people seem nervous. Speak a little louder than you do typically and give your audience no choice but to listen.
You'll seem more credible and your message will be more likely to land.
5. Set expectations.
"Why are you here?" On some level, that's what everyone's thinking the moment someone new starts to speak.
Get in front of this by sharing the goal of the meeting or a simple agenda at the very start. The last thing you want is to be deep into your content and have your boss (or client or whoever) interrupt to ask where you're going with it or why you haven't covered x, y, or z - especially if x, y, or z is next on your agenda.
Bonus tip: Even if you sent a calendar invite or agenda in advance, assume people haven't read it. If they're in any way busy or important, they likely haven't.
6. Pay attention, listen, and maybe even take notes.
Listening is the most-underrated communication skill by a mile. Buck the trend - if you're not going to listen, why show up?
Distractions are everywhere. Block them out for the duration of your meeting; you'll be fully present and engaged as a result.
Taking notes doesn't hurt either - you'll extend the value of the meeting beyond its close, know exactly where you left off, and have a clear picture of what's next.
7. Summarize - and say thanks.
Close all meetings with a quick summary of the next steps. This makes the difference between having an interesting 30 minutes and making lasting changes based on what was covered.
And say thank you. That's just good manners.
Send a follow-up note with a few bullet points summarizing what was covered and/or next steps. Thank them again.
The recipient will remember you as an organized and easy-to-work-with person, you'll have a paper trail to help with your own planning, and you'll have established/solidified a written correspondence with the person - making you a mere click away from another meeting.
Good luck. And tell us how it goes via our social channels.
Image credit: John Benson