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Learn to be more charismatic

Liz DeCarlo

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You have only seconds to make a good first impression on prospects and clients.
How long does it take to make a good first impression? It’s not 30 seconds, or 15, or five. In a mere two seconds, a stranger has already judged your trust factor and intelligence. In that two seconds, they’re noting your size, gender and age.

Within 30 seconds, they have judged your education and success by evaluating your clothing and body language. “Every minute, we’re throwing out thousands of aspects of body language,” said speaker Olivia Fox Cabane, an executive coach who helps people become more persuasive, influential and inspiring. “There’s too much body language for you to control consciously.”

So how do you exert some control over others’ initial perceptions of you? Cabane suggests the following:
  • Make eye contact. The area around the eyes is the most expressive.
  • Give a solid handshake. “Don’t give a dead-fish handshake. Give maximum palm contact. Keep your hand convex, wrap your hand around their hand, match their grip, then shake once or twice and let go,” Cabane said. “No dominant (hand on top), submissive (hand on bottom) or two-handed handshakes.”
  • Pay attention to your voice. Use facial expressions and voice fluctuations. The more voice fluctuation the better. The secret to a good conversation is how you make them feel. “You want them to feel they are the most important person you’ve ever met,” Cabane said.

If you’re meeting with a difficult person, Cabane suggests trying to get into an empathetic mode before you walk in the door. Imagine the worst thing that could have happened to the difficult person that morning. That starts the parasympathetic system, so you can get into a friendly frame of mind.

The second trick is to close your eyes and imagine this person as a best friend you haven’t seen in a long time. Envision a summer camp, bonfire, stories and s’mores. Take about 30 seconds to do this, and then open your eyes.

These tricks work because the brain doesn’t distinguish well between real and imaginary and they can change your frame of mind. “And remember, most of us are just doing our best to get through the day,” Cabane said.


  1. Presence. This is the ability to remain present. When you’re not entirely present, your eyes glaze over or you have a delayed response to the conversation. A quick fix is to mentally focus on your toes, but only for a second. It forces your mind to get back its focus. A second fix is, when you’re looking as someone, pay attention to the color of their eyes.

  2. Power. This isn’t actual power; it’s the impression of the power you have to influence the world around you. Alpha humans take up space. When people take assertive poses, their anxiety falls and they feel more confident. Don’t look down, slump or speak too fast, as these are considered signs of nervous body language.

  3. Warmth. To warm up your voice, just think about smiling and your voice will automatically warm up, which is most important when it’s a phone conversation. People read warmth in your eyes. You can fake a smile, but not the expression in your eyes.


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