How to Impress in Seconds

Neil StraussNeil

I’m often asked about how to make a great first impression. So to help you put your best self forward in those crucial first moments, I’d like to share a chapter I wrote for the book entitled The Experts Guide to Doing Thing Faster. It’s what they call in journalism a “service article,” which means it’s practical advice you can implement right away. So get to it…

Make a Winning First Impression

From The Experts Guide to Doing Things Faster

To make a winning impression, you must radiate a positive energy and an intriguing vibe. Because people primarily seek out and associate with those who appear to possess higher social status, you must begin by establishing your own high status. Fortunately, status is not signaled solely by wealth, fame, or beauty, but also by behavior. Here’s how to build yours quickly:


  • Be well groomed and comfortable in your clothing. Don’t leave the house feeling self-conscious or in disarray.
  • Make a grand entrance. Smile and laugh as you enter. If you’re with other people, let it be seen that they’re enjoying your company. If you’re alone, interact with people immediately, as if you know them.
  • Body language is key. Don’t clutch your phone, search your purse, or fiddle with your straw. Smile, hold your head up, and maintain good posture. Stand in the center of the room—don’t shrink into a corner. Make large, smooth gestures, and be neither too stiff nor too spastic.
  • Lock eyes momentarily with the person you’re interested in meeting, acknowledge her with a brief conspiratorial smile, and return to your conversation.

Once you’ve established yourself as the social center of the room, or at least a fun, magnetic person whom anyone would be lucky to meet, approach the object of your attention with the following in mind:


  • People want to extricate themselves from strangers who monopolize their time. You don’t want to be that stranger. So when engaging a person for the first time, convey a willingness to leave by mentioning that you must return to your friends in a moment.
  • If the person is standing with others, approach with an equal or slightly higher energy level than the group; if you bring them down, they’ll want to get rid of you.
  • If the person is with friends, shower the friends with equal or greater attention. If you win them over, you’ll win over the person you care about impressing.
  • Act like a social equal, even if you’re not. If the person walks by while you are engaged in another conversation, stop him, tell your friend to “hang on for a minute,” and introduce yourself. Afterward, with a confident smile, say, “That’s it. I didn’t want to miss out. You may walk on now.” Chances are no one’s approached the person like this before and he will be receptive when the conversation is re-initiated.
  • Avoid generic questions such as “Where are you from?” Have a couple of fun topics cued up that have nothing to do with the person, the environment, or your accomplishments. Ask for help thinking of a name for a three-legged cat, or say that your friend’s girlfriend chats with guys on the Internet and you’re having a debate over whether that’s considered cheating. Real conundrums are preferable to made-up ones.
  • Until the person warms up to you, don’t give her your full attention and positive body language. While focused on the conversation, keep some distance and stand perpendicular to her, speaking over your shoulder. Create the impression that you have other things to do, and you’re just stopping by to share some positive energy.
  • Never be negative. Embody a world others want to be part of by appearing healthy and happy.
  • Never boast. If there’s something you want the person to know about you, have a friend enter the conversation and convey the information.
  • Be an authority over the person’s world. Teach her something new about herself, such as what her body language communicates, or appreciate something about her that others don’t notice. Let her know she has met your standards, and help her feel good about herself.
  • Don’t appear to want anything. Figure out what the person needs (attention, approval, excitement, intimacy, enlightenment), and demonstrate that you can provide it. But don’t give it away instantly—make him work for it. After you get what you want (whether a phone number, recognition, or information), stick around for a minute and talk about another subject so the  person doesn’t feel used.


If you successfully manage all this, you’ll become a captivating person whom others want to see again—and there’s no more winning impression than that.


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