People are hardwired to judge a lot about you based on their first impression. Here’s how to enter a room in a way that will make people take notice.
[Photo of John Barrowman making a grand entrance at San Diego Comic-Con by Ewen Roberts]
If you’re anything like most folks, putting yourself out there can feel risky and intense. In a crowd, you probably feel like people are watching, analyzing, and even judging you. And you know what? You’re kind of right. People are hardwired to judge a lot about you based on their first impression.
Five Presence Pointers People Will Notice
Did we just confirm your worst fears? Sorry, but the truth is that whether you’re at a party, a networking event, an after-event gathering, or just casually grabbing a pint at the pub, a lot can hinge on what happens when you walk into a room.
Good thing you’re about to read our presence pointers, designed to help you make a commanding entrance. You’ll be able to put other people at ease and enjoy a fun, relaxing evening out, even as you make powerful impressions and potential connections.
1. Do a Body Check at the Door
Don’t step across the threshold without giving yourself the once-over. We’re talking about more than just making sure you don’t have anything in your teeth. Turn it on. Flip the switch. Whatever you want to call it, we’re talking about getting into the mindset of your most charming self. This will make it easier to step into that room with your best foot forward.
Stand tall, put a smile on your face, and roll your shoulders back and down so your hands are at your sides and not in your pockets. Why? Because when your hands are constrained, it sends a funky signal to your brain that almost always results in you using more filler words, fidgeting, and feeling awkward. Worse yet, once you assume that position, your brain will try to rationalize why you’re on guard. You might not even be aware of it until you catch odd thoughts running through your mind. I’m sure you’ve been there, trying to have a conversation with someone while you’re focused on random other things:
- Man, that music is too loud/awful/fast.
- I’m not feeling so well.
- Is it cold/hot/crowded/smelly in here?
- These people seem really weird/forward/judgmental
Set yourself up for success. With your hands at your sides, you’ll look relaxed, have better posture, and automatically feel more confident. And about that smile — there’s no better way to signal warmth. After all, a commanding presence doesn’t have to mean a stoic one. Smiles are contagious, so let people see you having a good time. People flock to warm, happy people and enjoy mingling with them. This is your chance to be a positive blip on other people’s radar.
2. Don’t Look Away!
Eye contact builds trust. Even in a darkened room — maybe even especially then — other people are looking for clues on your face that indicate you are warm and welcoming. It’s how humans build trust.
So don’t go for your phone. Don’t stare at the ceiling. Don’t give the floor a close inspection.
Have you ever heard of smizing? Tyra Banks famously tries to coach her models on how to get a smile to travel from the inside out, without showing any teeth. Maintain eye contact and let your energy exude. From your eyes to your smile, you can project a friendly vibe that makes everyone around you feel more comfortable.
3. Plant Yourself in Fertile Ground
It’s impossible to be a positive blip on people’s radar if you’re not on the map. Old habits die hard, so be aware of the magnetic pull of dark corners and other “safe spaces.” If you sit out of the way, you’re taking yourself off the field of play.
People can’t see you if you’re hiding, which means they have zero opportunities to make a positive judgment about you. They don’t have any choice but to ignore you completely, or worse, to wonder what’s wrong with you. I mean, you are acting like the weirdo in the corner, right? That’s not appealing. Then your mind is going to try to interpret the situation, and it will probably go harsh. Before you know it, you’re stewing in the corner: “Nobody wants to talk to me. I should just leave. This was a mistake.” It’s a surefire way to have a bad time.
Instead, stay in a well-lit, high-traffic area where people can see your smile and be drawn to your energy. Almost magically, you’ll find that they seek you out.
So look around and pick your spot; plant yourself by the refreshments or sign-in area if you’re at a networking event. If you’re in a bar, stand by the elbow — you know, that spot where people stand waiting for their drink orders. Make it easy for people to bump into you and try to start some conversations.
Soak in the atmosphere. Enjoy the music. Remember, the body leads the mind, then the mind leads the body. Just relax, slow down, and have fun. Feel good about being there and allow yourself the chance to just have a good time.
4. Rip It off Like a Band-Aid
Get that first interaction with another person out of the way as soon as possible. We’ve seen guys come through our immersion program in Los Angeles who make starting a conversation so much harder than it has to be just by hesitating. Even the smallest delay can be just long enough to let a flood of negative thoughts rush in.
You know your mission: get in there and do it. The faster you act, the easier it will be; the longer you wait, the more awkward it will feel. Don’t wait an hour to get moving — get social right away.
Pro Tip: Make It a Double
Try approaching two people who are already talking. I know, it sounds completely counterintuitive, but trust me. Odds are good that they came together and they’re trying to figure out who to talk to first. If they don’t know each other and just met, they may already be looking (perhaps desperately) for an exit. Either way, present them with the opportunity they’re looking for right off the bat. Just introduce yourself and ask what brought them to the event.
5. Pull the Plug on the Pressure
There is no need to put too much pressure on yourself. Everyone wants to be the rock star, the social butterfly who everyone at the party is drawn to, but you don’t have to do that to win. In fact, if you put that kind of pressure on yourself, you’ll probably end up leaving extremely frustrated, because you worked so hard just to end up having a bad night.
Keep it simple. Set very small goals you know you can accomplish. Just aim to say “hi” to five people, or up the challenge a bit and aim to get them to smile or give you a high-five. That’s a lot easier than shooting for meaningful connections, collecting business cards, or getting phone numbers. Those goals come packed with unnecessary pressure. You don’t need that.
Remember, a commanding presence is all about being in control of your body language, sending welcoming signals to people, and having a good time. We go out to have fun. If we want to engage others, we have to be having a good time ourselves.
Pro Tip: Keep the Conversation Moving
Do you dread that point in conversation when the momentum just kind of dies? Nobody likes the awkwardness of trying to revive a chat that has flatlined. Our secret is showing enthusiasm for the person you’re speaking with and the opportunity to get to know them. Really listen as they talk, and you’ll find people become much more engaged. Remember, to be interesting, you’ve got to be interested.
Get out There
Follow these five steps and you’ll discover it’s easier to get out there and meet people right from the moment you enter the room. But don’t leave it at that; take this exercise one step further by doing a little reflection when you get home.
Think back and identify two things you did really well during your time out; then think of two areas you could improve the next time. If you keep a journal, that would be a great place to keep notes of your progress. This way you’ll have a clear idea of where you are in your journey and where you want to go next. Don’t get all wrapped up obsessing about how much room for improvement you still have; celebrate your victories along the way!