First impressions are quick to form and difficult to change. That’s why the first impression you leave with potential clients or new colleagues is so critically important.

Here are five key elements that are certain to help you create the best possible first impression and build a solid reputation:

1. Be on time

This is so simple and fundamental, but it has become a real issue in this age of texting and messaging. People today worry less about being late because they can always send a text to let someone know they are “on their way.” Don’t fall into this trap! Instead, plan to arrive at your destination 15 minutes early so you can collect your thoughts and walk into every meeting feeling relaxed and confident.

Yes, there will be times when you can’t avoid being late. The key is not making it a habit. And if you are running late, don’t show up with a cup of hot coffee in your hand.

2. Be genuine

Knowing who you are is key to a good first impression. When you embrace your authentic self, you have no competition. The world deserves to know the real you.

If you feel uncomfortable in a suit, then don’t wear one. Instead, focus on being polished and pulled together in your own stylish way. The people who are meant to do business with you will only be able to find you if are authentic. And being genuine makes you fun to be around! (Note: You will have to learn to block out the naysayers who want you to be just like them.)

This Oscar Wilde quote sums it up: “Be yourself — everyone else is already taken.”

3. Be confident

This sounds great, but how do you tap into limitless confidence? Many people suggest that confidence emerges when you “set an intention” about the people you will be meeting and the conversations you want to have; when you know your market; or by having “growth calls” with your coach or mentor.

A big part of confidence is simply knowing who you are and defining your niche. Do you have a “niche statement” you use when you meet people for the first time? One you use at listing presentations and another for buyer clients?

Many agents fumble through explaining their niche, so invest a little bit of time to create a statement for each audience. Your confidence (and referrals) will soar. After all, if people know what your focus is, they can actually recognize the need for your services in their own lives and those around them.

You’ll want to make sure your niche statement answers these four basic questions:

  • Whom do I serve?
  • What is their problem?
  • What is my solution?
  • What is my promise?

Here is an example of a “first meeting” niche statement:

“I enjoy working with first-time homebuyers who are looking for someone to educate them about the process. I have created a suite of videos and host monthly workshops to prepare them for the journey ahead. This allows them to enjoy and fully understand the process of purchasing their first home.”

Now, take a moment and customize this for your niche. Put it in Evernote, or whatever note-taking app you use, and visit it daily until you have it memorized. The next time someone asks you what you do for a living, try this as your answer. It will not only boost your confidence, it also helps with the next element.

4. Be memorable

The next step in making a good first impression is coming to the table prepared to be memorable.

Before you meet a new client, Google them. Take a peek at their last few social media updates. Check out what they have “liked” on Facebook. Pop over to their Pinterest profile and see what they have been pinning lately. Find a few key topics you share a passion for and sprinkle those into your conversation.

If you don’t have time to find out about their life or passions before you meet, download the Refresh app. This app (available on Google Glass, iOS or your desktop) does the research for you and creates an easy-to-read dossier on each person you are meeting.

When you serendipitously meet someone new, you can be memorable by changing the first question you ask them. Instead of the generic “What do you do for a living?” ask “What do you do for fun?” Starting the conversation on a positive, passion-filled note is definitely one way to be memorable!

5. Be positive

This doesn’t mean you have to be Pollyanna all the time. Focus on smiling, sharing information with an upbeat tone and coming up with solutions, not just talking about problems or issues. If you open a conversation with how awful the weather has been, you are leading the chat down a dark hole. Instead, consider saying, “This cold weather sure does inspire hot cocoa by the fireplace,” or “I love using the warm blanket my grandma made in weather like this.”

Remember, being positive is not about ignoring the negative or burying challenges; it is about overcoming them with grace — and infusing uplifting energy into any situation. The goal is to provide an excellent experience for those around you.

Your first encounter with someone is one of the most crucial moments in your career. Always be aware of how you present yourself, even during those moments when you think no one is watching (or listening to your phone call in the hall).

Now, go out there and spark fun, confident, memorable conversations with new people!

Debra Trappen is the chief of sass, moxie and founder of As a speaker and consultant, she helps entrepreneurs shine online by building magnetic personal brands, defining solid goals and inspiring them to live purpose-filled, prosperous lives that fire them up.

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