At a young age, my grandfather taught me to always give a firm handshake. He said, “You’ll never make a good impression if you don’t!” He’s still alive and kicking in his 90’s, giving firm handshakes to this day. I’ve heard CPAs comment about the importance of making a good impression when they’re talking to staff about going to a networking event, being out in the audit field or meeting a client who comes into the office. Important, indeed.

The quote “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is largely attributed to Will Rogers. Without question, thousands of people have echoed it since. Either consciously or unconsciously, we all tend to make judgments about the professionalism, character, and competence of others based on first impressions.

So, what are some of the key components of making a solid, favorable impression? And don’t say, “Well, I do a pretty good impression of Johnny Carson.” That’s clearly not what we’re talking about here (though, I know a couple of CPAs who do Johnny Carson quite well).

A few key points on making a good first impression:

*Arrive a few minutes early
*Present yourself well
*Smile
*Be positive
*Look people in the eye (but not creepily)
*Speak clearly and at the proper volume
*Listen effectively
*Pay attention
*Turn off your mobile phone
*Find something in common (you might just get there through small talk)
*Be yourself

Before you meet someone, visualize an outstanding encounter, much like you might mentally envision a successful client meeting or sales call. Prepare in advance and create a few talking points. These points can simply be notes in your head, such as “ask about his going to school at Northwestern” or “comment about the positive things you heard about her speech at the United Way luncheon”.

There’s only a few seconds in which to make that good first impression…so make ‘em count!

***

“A good first impression can work wonders.”–J. K. Rowling

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