You only get one chance to make a first impression on a date. When you go out with someone, you make judgments about their character and personality based on your initial encounter. Mess it up from the start, and it’s over. How can you make a great first impression on your next date?
Jacqueline Whitmore is an internationally-recognized etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach. Her six tips to stand out from a sea of other suitors and impress your next date:
- Plan ahead. A little preparation will help you appear calm, confident and composed no matter how anxious you may actually feel. Equip yourself with interesting conversation topics. Do your research. If you and your date share a mutual friend, ask about your date’s hobbies and interests. To appear knowledgeable and interesting, brush up on current events. It’s best to know a little about a lot so you’ll be able to converse with your date on a variety of subjects. Stay away from controversial topics including politics and religion, until you get to know each other better.
- Do your homework. It takes work to make a romantic evening appear effortless. If you want to guarantee a great first impression, research the location or venue. For example, if you plan to take your date to a restaurant, go online and familiarize yourself with the menu. Look for foods that are easy to eat and won’t end up on your nice outfit. The person who does the inviting does the paying. Plan to give your credit card to your server before your date arrives or as the meal is coming to a close. Excuse yourself during the dessert course and find your server. It’s best to take care of the check away from the table if you want to appear savvy and sophisticated.
- Be punctual. When you show up on time, you send a clear message that you’re responsible and respectful of your date’s time. If you plan to meet your date at a restaurant, give yourself plenty of time to find the location, go to the restroom, check your appearance and gain your composure.
- Dress to impress. Your appearance is part of your personal brand and is your opportunity to showcase your personality. You’re more likely to make a great first impression if you appear well dressed and “put together.” When you choose an outfit, take into account where you plan to go and what you plan to do on your date. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look good. Instead, create a foundation for your wardrobe with an investment in timeless pieces.
- Greet your date warmly. A firm handshake or a peck on the cheek is the most appropriate way to greet your date when you first meet. Your greeting should be warm, friendly and sincere. Remember to make eye contact and smile. The smile is the most beautiful curve on the human body. A handshake that is too firm or too weak may give off a negative impression. If you’re seated when your date arrives, stand up and say hello. Standing shows respect for the other person and for yourself.
- Be an attentive listener. A good conversation is like a tennis match. It only works when you hit the ball in the other person’s court. In other words, don’t talk only about yourself. You’ll impress your date if you show you’re fully engaged, listen, and ask pertinent questions. Never interrupt or finish your date’s sentences. You don’t want to appear rude or in a hurry. Don’t talk with your mouth full of food and don’t text or talk on your cell phone. Give your date your undivided attention. Attentive listening builds trust, establishes rapport, leaves a great first impression, and almost always guarantees a second date.