How to make an entrance: a gentleman’s guide to a good first impression

First impressions are lasting impressions; so we've whittled down the best advice for those looking to enter a room in style.

Walking into a room is one of the simplest things a fellow can do; and, simultaneously, one of the hardest. On the face of it, there’s nothing to it; but when you delve deeper, there’s everything to it. When you walk into a meeting, or a party, or any room featuring other people, you’ll be making an impression. You may not know it; you may not care about it; but that impression will be made, regardless.

As a gentleman, we imagine you’ll be striving to give a good first impression at all times, to whoever you may be meeting — and that’s as it should be. Put simply: there’s no point entering any room if you don’t plan on doing your bit to make that room a better place. So, with that in mind, here are our top tips for making a stellar first impression

1. Close the door behind you

It sounds bizarrely simple. It sounds utterly unimportant; supremely banal, in fact. But closing the door behind you can make all the difference in how people subconsciously perceive you. If you take the time to close the door, you’re finishing the job. You’re demonstrating — however subtly — that you don’t leave things half-finished.

Leaving the door swinging on its hinges is somewhat akin to not making your bed in the morning. It implies you’re sloppy, forgetful, absent-minded and even a little self-obsessed; after all, how often have you sent menacing glances in the direction of the people who left the restaurant door open and let that icy cold draft sweep through the room? Don’t be that guy. Be considerate, and do a tidy job. Close that door.

2. Be mindful of your body language

We’re sure you’ve heard enough about body language for one lifetime, at interview preparation seminars and the like; but if you’re looking to make a good impression, the importance of body language cannot be underestimated. The gentleman who shuffles in, head down and shoulders slumped, is not going to give an impression of capability. The gentleman who rushes into the room, setting the door banging before flinging his limbs around, is not going to give an impression of respectability.

Instead, you’ll want to remain calm and measured. Don’t hang back; but don’t rush in, either. Keep your gait purposeful, and keep your head held high. Keep those shoulders straight and well away from your ears (if you really want to go the whole hog, try doing some shoulder rolls before you enter the room); and acknowledge everyone you meet with a respectful smile. And on that note…

3. Connect with everyone in the room

It starts with the eyes, gents. We’ve already maintained that making eye contact is a supremely gentlemanly quality; and it’s more important than ever when it comes to entering a room. If you walk into a room with your eyes cast down, you won’t come across as the confident gentleman we know you are; plus, you’ll look unapproachable and distant. And if you were thinking of walking into the room while simultaneously firing off an email on your phone; well, you know what we’re going to say about that. It’s a no from us.

Instead, meet the eyes of everyone who’s turned to greet you. Be sure to greet everyone, no matter their importance or status in the room. To a gentleman, everyone is of equal value. Don’t rush straight over to the people you’re really there to see, or dash past everyone else in order to greet your best friend first; acknowledge everyone, and give everyone the time they deserve.

4. Pay close attention to the handshake

Ah, the recurring question of the handshake; to shake, or not to shake? Well, earlier this week we detailed how a gentleman should handle the handshake conundrum in our ‘new normal’ — and managing this particular area of social interaction is key when it comes to making a good impression.

First, always check. Don’t grab someone’s hand without asking them if that’s ok first — it’s not very Covid-friendly. If they’re happy with a handshake, you know the drill; maintain that strong grip without wrenching their hand off their wrist. And if a handshake isn’t on the table, assess the formality of the event before going in with the elbow bump. On the one hand, an elbow bump shows you to be a gentleman who’s considerate of others’ Covid-concerns, and it gives you a fun, playful edge — but if your colleagues are looking on, stony faced, maybe dispense with the elbow bump this time. Essentially, keep your social antennae switched on when it comes to physical greetings.

5. Display an interest in other people

You may have heard it said that we should all act as though we ‘own the room’. We disagree. You should act as though you belong in the room, of course, and as though you’re a valued participant (which we have no doubt you are); but no one owns a room. If you’re hosting a group of people — whether a party, a work event or something else — you’ll want to keep it humble; no one likes an arrogant host. And if you’ve been invited somewhere, it’s important to show respect and gratitude to your hosts.

The best way to make a first impression as a respectful, humble sort of chap is to show an unfailing interest in other people. Ask questions, and then ask follow-up questions. Don’t go off on long, meandering stories if no one’s asked for them; and don’t take it upon yourself to give unsolicited advice. Be chatty, of course, and give well-rounded answers if asked about yourself; but interest in others should always come first.

6. Know your current affairs

Trust us on this one, gents; you’ll want to know what’s going on in the world if you want to make a good first impression. Make sure you’re well versed in current affairs — both British and international — and be ready with some carefully formulated opinions on the big stuff (we’re talking Brexit, Covid et al) in case anyone asks.

Don’t be forceful with your opinions, of course; but you’ll want to show that you’re intellectually curious and socially minded; most of all, that you’re engaged with the world around you. That’s always a winning trait.

7. Last, but by no means least: appearance is everything

We’re sure we don’t need to tell you this; but it’s always worth saying. If you don’t put thought into your appearance, others won’t take you seriously: it’s a fact. No matter how hungover you may be, you’ll need to look fresh, sharp and suave if you want to make a good first impression: and, luckily, we’ve got a handsome man’s guide to a hangover in case you need some inspiration…

If the weather’s hotting up (this weekend is purportedly going to be a scorcher, by all accounts), you’ll want to dress with that in mind; avoid anything that could give way to unfortunate sweat stains or unwanted wrinkles (these shirts should be a good bet). And then there’s the fragrance; fragrance is always of paramount importance — and it’s more important during the warmer months than ever. And if you want your fragrance to leave a lasting first impression for you, we can help you find your signature scent

Still looking for more ways to leave a good lasting impression? Here are five tips for public speaking success, from those who really ought to know

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