(OPRAH.com) -- Recently, I was invited to meet with an important CEO for a second time. In our first meeting, we hit it off like old friends and he remarked that my insight into his business was spot-on.
It would be easy to assume that because our rapport was strong that our second meeting may lead to prosperous rewards -- a consulting job for me and a highly connected friend in my network. However, instead of thinking, "This will be a piece of cake," I knew that I needed to spend some quality time preparing for our second meeting.
In my research, the second impression is just as important as the first. We put too much weight into the first impression and assume that's all that counts. We get lazy, thinking that the encore performance is a freebie that will obviously turn out well, "because we dig each other, right?" Don't kid yourself. You will never win someone over completely with one great meeting.
In relationships, business and social situations, I've found the second meeting to be the hardest of all. This is especially true when the first meeting went well.
While psychologists are right that a first impression that is extreme, be it positive or negative, sets the tone for a relationship, it doesn't define its boundaries or potential. Subsequent encounters determine the real quality of any relationship. Yet, sadly, we don't train people for this. When the second meeting goes so-so, others cool off, making it hard to ever have a third one.
Here's what's really going on: During a first meeting, people decide if we are likable (familiar, nice, relatable). Once that hurdle is crossed, they look for a connection, the person's value and can feel empathy. Being relevant to someone's needs or interests takes the relationship to the next level.
Even in job interviews, the first encounter shapes up your social fit, and subsequent interviews determine your competency. If the first meeting goes wonderfully, expectations often increase, making the second meeting even harder. A fluffy second interview can frustrate a hiring manager under pressure to find a top producer. The same goes for your personal life from first dates to first encounters with the in-laws. If your second meeting is lacking, he is wondering, "What happened to her?" He was looking find some common ground to take things to the next level, and instead they got a repeat performance.
Over the past few years, I've come up with five simple tips that will help you have a great second meeting and take your new relationships to the next level. This advice is slanted to those that are following up on a great first impression.
1. Remember the details of the first meeting. This is also the golden rule of being a good conversationalist or customer oriented--company. People are irritated when they have to repeat themselves. If you don't give them your respect and full attention, why should they do the same for you?
One way to do this is to journal the details of any great first impression. Note what was said, what was learned and how people felt about the conversation. Names are the most important thing to remember, especially those of the family and friends of your meeting partners. If you learned something from the last meeting, start at that piece of insight during the second meeting.
2. Try not to repeat yourself too much. Everyone has his or her "greatest hits" of stories, jokes and observations. In many situations, this arsenal of entertainment produces a great first meeting. Your homespun story may make people laugh till they cry the first time, but the second time you tell them, they will check their email on their BlackBerry. Prior to the second meeting, recollect the details of the first.
I always have a bullet-point outline of my meeting or talk, including what stories or jokes I told and even what I wore that day! Bring some novelty to the second time around by bringing some fresh content.
Be willing to take requests if you are asked to repeat parts of your first meeting for new eyes and ears.
3. Over prepare. As much as you prepped yourself for the first meeting, give as much or more effort for the second. Conditions change, audiences change and contemporary events change your value proposition/premise.
Before the second meeting, research these changes and let the dialogue from meeting one give you fodder for a much deeper dive into the details in preparation for meeting two.
4. Be grateful for the chance to meet again. If it's a meeting for business, be grateful for the airtime. For your best potential partners, time is worth more than money. Same goes for paid engagements (from consulting to services). It's a tough market out there, and you should give some extra heart to people who give you double repeat business.
Don't take them for granted or think you are some kind gift to the world that they're giving homage to. Be very humble about the encore and show some real gratitude. Meditate for a minute on it when you first wake up the day of the second meeting.
5. Take it to the next level. Don't just think of this as another meeting. Life is short, so do your best to convert this warm and fuzzy transaction into a powerful relationship. Raise the bar on your encore performance. In business, move from getting-to-know-you to let's-make-something happen-now. In personal situations, move from getting-to-know you to some kind of real progress in the relationship.
Here's my promise: If you'll add this to your arsenal of relationship-building wisdom, you'll have a real advantage over those who are only interested is making a good first impression.
How did my second meeting with that CEO go? Much better than the first, and I think we are now in biz-love.
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