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Your first impression happens the moment you walk into a room. Your grand entrance may matter more than you think. But we rarely think about our grand entrances. How do you:
- Look confident the moment people see you
- Walk into a room with a grand entrance
- Make a positive first impression
There are 5 steps to walking into a room with confidence and making a grand entrance.
What is a Grand Entrance?
You make a grand entrance when you walk into a room and immediately signal confidence, purpose, and positivity to those who see you. A grand entrance makes an amazing first impression and can set the tone for the rest of your social interaction.
Here’s how to make a grand entrance in 5 simple steps.
Step #1: Walk With Purpose
The most important part of your grand entrance happens before you even walk into the room. The easiest way to signal confidence is to show purpose.
Purpose is a shortcut to confidence.
The biggest mistake people make is they walk into a room purposeless. They wait to decide what they will do once they walk in. And here’s what happens:
If you wait to decide what to do once you walk into a room, you will be more nervous and cue for nervousness. Nervous cues are:
- Darting eyes
- Unsure footing
- Pacing or rocking on your feet
- Clutching a purse or bag
- Biting nails
To avoid these nervous cues, before you walk into a room, decide what you want to do first. Here are common options:
- Drop off your coat
- Greet the host
- Grab a drink
- Go to the bathroom
- Put down your bag
Any purpose is better than no purpose!
Action Step: Pick a purpose before walking into the room… and then do it first.
Step #2: Sweeping Gaze
When most people walk into a room, they start frantically searching–looking for someone they know, looking for food, trying to take it all in. That makes you look like a deer in the headlights (not a great look).
Instead, I want you to use Sweeping Gaze.
Sweeping Gaze is a slow, methodical look around the room. Start it the moment you enter a room. This also gives you even more purpose (remember, the most important part of your interaction!).
As soon as you walk into a room, start on the left. Then slowly sweep across the room until you find your goal (remember Step #1). Then make prolonged eye contact with your goal destination.
You can use Sweeping Gaze every time you move around a room to signal confidence.
- When you need to cross the room to find a friend, use Sweeping Gaze.
- When you need to end a conversation, signal so by using Sweeping Gaze.
- On your way to the bathroom, use Sweeping Gaze.
Action Step: Use sweeping Gaze as you enter and move through a room.
Step #3: Signal
When you enter a room, people try to decide if you are a friend or foe. This is a leftover instinct from our caveman days — we need to quickly decide if someone is on our side. In your grand entrance, you want to immediately signal: Friend! Friend! Friend!
In our Science of People lab, we did an experiment analyzing over 495 pitches on Shark Tank. Shark Tank is a TV show where entrepreneurs come into a ‘tank’ to pitch their idea to a panel of investor sharks. Here’s what we found:
Successful pitchers signal the moment they walk into the room.
The best pitchers walked into the tank and immediately waved hello, nodded, or smiled at the sharks. That’s it! Sounds simple? Think again. This is a quick nonverbal cue of trust.
Think about what you do when you see a friend across the room. What do you do? Wave hello. Give them the nod. Smile to indicate you are coming over. The Rock loves a good salute…
As you do your sweeping Gaze, see if there is anyone you can signal. Your target can be the host, a friend, or a colleague. Even if you don’t know anyone, I like to do this with the bartender or servers. It is a polite way to greet and also signals to others watching that I am open.
Action Step: Use a wave, nod, or smile when entering a room.
Bonus Action Step: See what else we learned from our Shark Tank experiment:
Step #4: Swift Personal Greetings
In one episode of the TV Show Community (Season one, episode 2), Jeff Winger makes a grand entrance into his study room. He first starts with purpose and lots of friend signals. See 6:46 in the video above.
Winger steps into the room, spreads his arms wide, and says, “Hey!”
Then he quickly personalizes each greeting to the person he is speaking with.
Annie gets a kiss on the back of the hand and a, “My lady.”
Shirley gets a kiss on the top of the head and a, “Hi baby.”
Pierce gets a solid handshake and a “Hello Vitamin P.”
Troy gets a fist bump.
Abed gets a double handshake and tells Jeff, “Great entrance!”
Swift personal greetings extend and personalize your grand entrance to each person. You can do this with people you know and don’t know!
- Hugs to people your are most comfortable with
- High fives for casual acquaintances
- Handshakes in a professional setting or when quickly meeting new people
- Fist bumps if that is what is offered to you
Try to initiate some kind of comfortable touch and add a personalized verbal greeting that is positive. We can learn a lot from Winger. Here are some easy ones to use based on the person you are with:
- Hi friend!
- Hey buddy.
- [Name] it is so great to see you.
- Good morning, team.
- A pleasure to meet you, [name].
- Well, this is lovely joining all of you.
- Long time no see, friend!
- You look wonderful!
Action Step: When you approach someone initiate a comfortable touch and add a swift, personal and positive greeting.
Step #5: Open a Sparking Conversation
Your grand entrance ends the moment you start a conversation. So you want to make this good. Do NOT start on autopilot. These all deflate the air out of a great personal entrance:
- How are ya?
- How’s it going?
- What’s up?
People will reply to these on autopilot. Most likely, “Good.” or “Fine.” Yuck! How boring. Instead of doing this, try to use one Context Cue.
A Context Cue is a conversation starter that points out something interesting about your context that is easy for someone to reply to. Here are some easy ones to use:
- This venue is great, have you been here before?
- That wine looks delicious; would you recommend it?
- Love that shirt; where did you get it?
- It’s packed! How long have you been here?
- Love your Zoom background (for more on great virtual first impressions, read this tutorial)
- I’ve never been here before, is this your first time?
- What a great group, how do you know each other?
- That food looks delicious. Have you gotten your plate yet?
Action Step: As you walk across the room, think of a sparking conversation starter you can add as your opening line.
Grand Entrance Takeaways
Need a quick recap? Follow these 5 tips to make your best impression:
- Have a purpose when you walk into the room. Greet the host, grab a drink, or go to the bathroom—do anything but stand around aimlessly.
- Use the sweeping Gaze. Slowly look from left to right when you enter the room to find potential opportunities.
- Greet someone when you enter. A friendly smile and wave signals to others you are friendly and open to being approached.
- Add physical touch in the form of a handshake, shoulder touch, or fist bump when you greet people you meet in the room. Keep it short and mind personal boundaries.
- Use your environment to start a conversation. Avoid boring conversation starters like the weather.
Need more ideas on how to carry on a great conversation? Read our conversation guide to know exactly what to say and how to build rapport quickly.