How You Can Make A Great First Impression In Less Than Seven Seconds

Cartoon of boy snapping his fingers. Isolaed on white

“Here’s a slide I think might be good,” the CEO said to us.

The CEO had just blown it. I mean completely blown it.

I was working at a Venture Capital firm at the time, and we were sincerely interested in investing in the CEO’s company.

  • We liked the technology.
  • We liked the engineering team.
  • But the CEO was so unprepared that we couldn’t move forward.

I met with the CEO the following week and I asked him why he was so unprepared.

“I didn’t think you guys would invest in us.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The CEO had lost before he had started.

It’s so hard to raise money or get a job or achieve anything of purpose in life. Why would you shoot yourself before you even start?

But we’ve all done it, haven’t we?

I don’t know how many times I’ve talked myself out of really good stuff.
Thank goodness my brain was screwed on right when I met my wife.

So, what’s the goal of any interview process or meeting?


Get the offer or get to the next step!


Then you can decide if you want to accept it.

You can always say no. Then the decision is yours, not someone else's.

And do you realize how quickly people make a decision about you?

Seven seconds.

That’s it.

Just seven quick seconds and you’re done. The rest of the meeting or interview the other side is attempting to justify the decision they are going to make.

It makes sense in today’s attention shortened world: you need to make a great first impression!

So you had better be prepared right from the start because you never know when lightning will strike.


Here are ten ideas how you can make a great impression:


A.  Smile.


It seems obvious so I hope you are already doing this. Ask yourself this question: would you rather work with someone who is smiling or frowning?


B.  Shake hands.


Try and match firmness of the person’s handshake. It’s an art but matching the other side’s demeanor helps the other side receive your message.


C.  Make eye contact.


Look the other person in the eye because it shows you are confident and unafraid.


D.  Have a positive attitude.


Believing you are going to succeed is more than half the battle. Along with…


E.  Visualize a successful meeting.


Think through what you want to have happen in the meeting. Imagine yourself confidently answering question after question. True fact: your brain cannot tell the difference between visualization and reality.


F.  Watch your posture.


Non-verbal queues matter. Standing straight or sitting straight up sends a much more positive message than slouching.


G.  If you’re sitting down, lean forward to make a point.


Are you making a key point? Leaning towards your audience automatically conveys that the point is important to your audience. And…


H.  Walk toward your audience to make a point.


You can convey importance standing up by walking towards the audience. Your effectiveness grows the more you use numbers six and seven.


I.  Keep your arms open and by your side.


Closed arms signals defensiveness and open arms signals openness.


J.  Use a strong voice.


I know you’re nervous. Who wouldn’t be? But the strong voice you are using projects confidence.

Related Post: How Stuttering Can Make You A Better Public Speaker


  • Make your opening slide or opening statement so compelling that your audience has to keep listening, and…
  • Make it instantaneously obvious why they have to hire you, buy from you, or give you money.

That’s it.

That’s all you have to do.

The challenge is that getting to this point is hard work.

You have to dig deep to figure this out.

In fact, you will likely revise your message many times before you nail it. Then you’ll tweak your message some more.


Use the “snap of the fingers test”:


The idea you are presenting should be so obvious to the person you are presenting it to that they instantly get it.

Keep iterating until you hone your message until it is received in the snap of the fingers.

Remember: what’s obvious to you might not be obvious to others.


Here are some tips:


A.  Spend more time on your presentation.


Sprinters spend countless hours preparing for a ten-second race. And yet most people spend very little time preparing for an important presentation.


B.  Just like the sprinter preparing for the big race, rehearse.


See where your stumbling blocks are.


C.  Tape your rehearsals.


Listening to the playback is so revealing. You hear everything that is right with your presentation. More importantly, you hear where the work needs to be done.


D.  Use your significant other as a sounding board.


I like presenting to my wife because she is a supportive audience. Plus she gives me good feedback.


E.  You can A/B test your pitch.


You can try different variations of your pitch with your supportive audience (and the tape running) to see what version is the best.


F.  A picture is worth a thousand words.


Convey as much as you can with graphics and pictures. More graphics and less words usually equals a more successful presentation.


G.  Make sure your presentation is visually appealing.


No one likes looking at cluttered slides. Make the pitch easy to view.


H.  Simplify your messaging.


Use the snap of the fingers test. It’s too complicated if your audience can’t instantly understand what you’re saying.


I.  Repeat your messaging.


The old saying, “Tell them what you’re going to say, say it, then tell them that you've said it” still holds true.


J.  And finally, be enthusiastic!


Combine the above points with enthusiasm and you are in great shape to succeed.


Did the CEO learn from his mistakes?


Interestingly enough, he did. The company ended up being acquired for a nice amount instead of taking on venture funding.

Good for them!


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Picture: Depositphotos