Last week I worked with someone who was going for a significant promotion. Every time I work with someone on their networking, pitching or interview skills, it always strikes me anew how important the meeting and greeting bit is. How someone simply says hello, shakes your hand, smiles and says their name creates a strong impression and first impressions matter. How they say goodbye and leave is the impression the panel or client is left with.
Dale Carnegie, in his wonderful book How to Win Friends & Influence People talks about smiling before you go through the door. The smile will fade slightly, but the uplifted muscles remain, giving your face a positive and interested look.
I have spoken before about the importance of saying your name with clarity and conviction. (See this video) How you say your names tells people what you think about yourself, doesn’t it? Mumble it and you’re subconsciously transmitting the message ‘my name doesn’t matter very much’. Speak it clearly, with sufficient energy and it almost becomes an advertisement for you.
Two people, one job
Imagine two people are being interviewed for the same job. They have broadly similar qualifications. One is cheerful and takes the time to greet his or her interviewers with sincerity and enthusiasm. The other is more serious, perhaps shy and self-deprecating and rushes through a muttered introduction. I suspect that most panels find reasons to favour one applicant over an equally qualified other, which they might relate to a ‘gut feeling’ or describe as likeability. So anything you can do to create a good impression is surely a good thing.
A firm, not bone-crushing handshake can demonstrate a similar self-confidence. If you suffer from sweaty palms, three suggestions:
- Rub your hands together vigorously before you go in the room to dispel the moisture
- If you can, get to a lavatory and wash your hands in cold water, then dry them thoroughly, preferably under a cool hand-dryer
- Have a handkerchief or tissue in your pocket, which you can grasp and hold for a few seconds shortly before the handshake.
Don’t underestimate or rush your introductions. They make you appear confident, relaxed and interested in your listeners.
Taking your leave
I’ve never forgotten the story once told me by an associate of a team of architects who delegated one person to do the introductions at the start of a big pitch and who then memorised all the client’s names and thanked them all personally as they left. The impression this created in the minds of the potential clients was so strong that the firm pretty well employed this person for this one skill, he was so valuable to them. Never leave in a rush – how you leave strengthens the impression of a person or team who know what they’re doing and who care about their clients.