10 Ways to Make a Great First Impression in 30 Seconds

The first 30 seconds count. Whether it's a date or a job interview, our brains make snap judgments about people within seconds of meeting them.

It starts before they even open their mouths. Research shows the first 30 seconds of an interview often determines whether the person gets hired or not.

Most of the time we don't even realize how quickly we judge people. Our subconscious mind evaluates the person in seconds. Our conscious mind then proceeds to identify clues that validate what we already think.

It's unfair, but it's also a fact.

Whether it's a sales call, a blind date, or a first meeting with future in-laws, if you want things to go well, it pays to be intentional about how you handle the first 30 seconds.

Here are 10 tips to help you close the deal, land the job, get the guy, woo the woman, or win over your future mother-in-law:

1. Open your body
Before you walk in the door take a minute to take a deep breath, relax your shoulders and straighten your posture. If you walk into the room with open body language you'll come across as confident and relaxed.

2. Smile
It sounds obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many people go into a meeting looking like they just smelled something bad. Don't wait for them to smile at you. Walk in smiling with your mouth and your eyes.

3. Leave bulky bags outside
Struggling with straps and packages makes you look frazzled and disorganized. If you're hauling around a 30-pound Samsonite, discretely drop it by the door before you enter the room. You want the attention on the people, not your stuff.

4. Make eye contact with everyone
It's tempting to zero in on the person in charge, but while you're zooming in, the others feel left out. Upon entering, make direct eye contact with every person in the meeting.

5. Let them know you're delighted to be there
A comment like, " Driving over here, I was thinking about how excited I am about this meeting." lets them know they're important to you. You don't have to suck up, just sincerely share your enthusiasm.

6. Get them talking within 30 seconds
Don't start with a monologue. Engage them immediately by asking a question. Nodding with eye contact as they answer helps you establish an immediate connection.

7. Be prepared, not scripted
Plan some comments in advance, but don't script things out so much that you sound like a robot. If their company just launched a great ad campaign, plan to mention it. Knowing you have something for later gives you more confidence in the beginning.

8. Ask an unexpected question
You can ease tension by asking something off-beat like, "They say the world is going to end today, what do you think we should order for lunch? Only do it if you're comfortable with humor.

9. Don't fidget
As tempting as it is to tug at your waistband or tie, don't. When they're talking look directly at them, don't fiddle with your socks.

10. Be authentic
Planning doesn't mean being fake. People can spot a phony. The goal of preparation is to give you the confidence that allows the real you to shine through. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is to be yourself.