Making a Great First Impression: How to Introduce Yourself to Strangers

Welcome to the fifth part of our series exploring the art of dining with strangers. So far, we’ve uncovered the unexpected benefits of these encounters, tips for navigating these uncharted social waters, and even deciphered the role of our algorithm in orchestrating your evenings. We’ve also listed the 10 types of guests you might meet.

Today, we delve into the subtleties of first impressions and how, in just a few moments, you can effectively introduce and connect with new faces.

The Power of First Impressions

It’s often said that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. In the context of dining with strangers, these first moments are crucial and can set the tone for the entire evening. Here’s how to make sure your initial moments count.

1/ The Art of Appearance

Physical appearance is often the first form of non-verbal communication in social encounters. Research from Princeton University reveals it takes only a tenth of a second to judge someone based on appearance. Clothing, colors, and personal hygiene are determining factors that influence these quick judgments.

Choose colors that convey traits of your personality and the ambiance you want to create: red for energy, blue for reliability, or black for elegance. For events like Timeleft dinners, a “smart casual” outfit is ideal as it balances comfort and seriousness, showing that you take the occasion seriously while remaining open to new encounters.

Details That Make All the Difference

The details of your outfit, such as accessories, can reflect your individuality and serve as conversation catalysts. A watch, a piece of jewelry, or a scarf can reveal aspects of your character and encourage exchanges, but it’s crucial not to overload your look.

Cleanliness and neat presentation are essential and can be associated with intelligence and reliability, according to the Journal of Applied Psychology. Keep your style in harmony with the image you want to project; a consistent outfit with your personal or professional identity reinforces your credibility and allows others to easily read your personality.

Practical Tips for Impeccable Appearance

  • Plan Ahead: Choose your outfit the day before to avoid rushing and uncertainty.
  • Adapt to the Season: Ensure your outfit is suitable for the weather to avoid any discomfort.
  • Focus on Quality Over Quantity: A well-made garment is often more impressive than a multitude of cheap accessories.
  • Have a Backup Outfit: In case of an accident or change of plan, having an alternative option can be a lifesaver.

2/ Body Language

Body language is a powerful means of communication, often more eloquent than words themselves. Studies estimate that non-verbal communication accounts for up to 55% of the impact of a message in a face-to-face encounter.

An open posture, direct eye contact, and gestures that reflect interest are perceived as signs of confidence and engagement. Conversely, crossed arms, avoiding eye contact, or tapping feet can indicate discomfort or disinterest.

Research published in the “Journal of Nonverbal Behavior” highlighted the importance of synchronizing movements and facial expressions to establish empathic connection, crucial in a context of meeting strangers.

Signals to Decode

Smiling is particularly powerful as a universal gesture of welcome and goodwill. By smiling, you not only signal your openness and friendliness but also encourage others to relax and be more open to exchange.

Congruence between what we say and how our body communicates it is essential to be perceived as authentic. Incongruent body language, like nervous gestures when claiming to be relaxed, can sow doubt about the truth of our words.

Practical Tips to Refine Your Body Language

To maximize the impact of your body language at dinners with strangers, here are some practical tips:

  • Maintain Balanced Eye Contact: Too much eye contact can be intimidating, while a fleeting gaze can seem insincere. Find a middle ground to communicate interest without discomfort.
  • Adopt an Open Posture: Orient your body towards your interlocutor, without crossed arms or legs, to signal your engagement in the conversation.
  • Synchronize Your Behavior: Mirroring your interlocutor’s gestures can create a sense of harmony and mutual understanding.
  • Be Aware of Personal Space: Respect everyone’s personal space. Invading it can be perceived as aggression or intrusion.
  • Use Gestures to Emphasize Your Points: Gestures can help reinforce your message but should be natural and not forced.
  • Practice the ‘Power Pose’: Before the event, take a few moments to stand in a confident position – this can actually boost your self-confidence.

3/ The Art of Conversation: Knowing How to Ask the Right Questions

Conversation is an art that relies on the balance between speaking and listening, and questions are the tools that allow us to navigate this balance with grace. Asking questions during a first meeting can increase the chances of winning the other person’s sympathy, as it demonstrates a genuine interest in their experiences and opinions.

However, the type of questions asked is crucial: open-ended questions that invite reflection and sharing can create a much richer conversational dynamic than closed questions that are limited to “yes” or “no” answers.

The power of good questions is not just to elicit a response, but to open windows into the other person’s mind and heart. Conversations that include deep and meaningful questions are more likely to lead to stronger interpersonal connections and greater social satisfaction.

A study from Stanford University has shown that people who ask a variety of specific questions are better able to solve problems and navigate complex social situations, which is essential when sitting at a table with strangers.

Practical Tips for Asking Good Questions

To excel in the art of asking the right questions at dinners with strangers, here are some strategies:

  • Prepare interesting questions in advance: Google or ChatGPT are your friends! Ask them for a list of 5 or 10 questions that will hit the mark.
  • Avoid Questions That Can Be Answered with a Simple “Yes” or “No”: Phrase your questions in a way that requires a detailed response, encouraging the other person to share more.
  • Practice Active Listening: Show that you are truly interested in the answers by nodding, maintaining eye contact, and summarizing what the other person has said before asking a follow-up question.
  • Be Mindful of Timing: Ask appropriate questions at the right time. Avoid asking too personal questions too soon.
  • Use Questions to Revive the Conversation: If the conversation starts to falter, use a question to restart the flow of dialogue.
  • Learn to Build on Responses: Use responses as a springboard for follow-up questions that deepen the conversation.
  • Be Open and Receptive: Be ready to change the subject if you sense that your interlocutor is uncomfortable or unresponsive to a line of questioning.

4/ Managing Stage Fright

Stage fright before a social meeting, especially with strangers, is a normal human reaction. It is rooted in our survival instinct and our need for social acceptance. Neuroscience studies, like the one published in the “Journal of Anxiety Disorders”, show that stage fright activates brain regions associated with fear and anticipation, which can trigger physiological reactions like sweating or an increased heart rate. About 15 to 20% of people experience a form of social stage fright that can influence their ability to interact in social environments, according to the American Psychological Association.

Stage fright is not just an emotional reaction; it also has an adaptive function. A study from the University of California suggests that stage fright can be beneficial in making us more attentive and improving our social performance, provided it is managed effectively.

Recognizing that stage fright is a normal response to a potentially stressful situation is the first step in managing it. Accepting stage fright instead of fighting it can reduce its intensity and allow you to use it to your advantage.

Practical Tips for Overcoming Stage Fright

To overcome stage fright during a dinner with strangers, here are some proven strategies:

  • Mental Preparation: Visualize the evening in advance, imagine yourself calmly talking and enjoying the conversation. Positive visualization can reduce anxiety and increase self-confidence.
  • Controlled Breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises before and during the event. Diaphragmatic breathing has been scientifically proven to help calm the nervous system.
  • Movement and Exercise: Light physical activity before the event can help decrease tension. A brisk walk or a yoga session can release endorphins, which are natural relaxants.
  • Mindfulness Techniques: Methods like mindfulness meditation can help you stay grounded in the present moment and reduce worry.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Rather than aiming to be the star of the evening, set a goal to have one or two pleasant conversations.
  • Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself and recognize that everyone feels stage fright at some point. Self-compassion can reduce the fear of negative evaluation.
  • Create Calming Rituals: Establish personal rituals that calm you, like listening to a particular song, drinking a cup of tea, or wearing an outfit that makes you feel confident.
  • Focal Points: Find focal points in the environment that can serve as reminders to stay centered and calm.


Thus, by refining your presentation and mastering the art of making a good first impression, you are ready to turn every Timeleft meeting into an opportunity for personal enrichment. Keep these tips in mind, and your next interaction will not only be less intimidating, but potentially the beginning of a meaningful connection.

Join us to continue exploring the art of conversation and enriching your social experience with Timeleft.

Who Are We?

Timeleft is not just a new app; it’s a gateway to a new way of living in the city, a celebration of human connection, and an invitation to venture into the social fabric with a welcoming mindset.

Our Success in Numbers:

  • Over 10,000 participants in 6 months
  • Meet-ups set in Lisbon, Porto, Paris, and Marseille
  • A community of 50,000 enthusiastic members

How to Join the Experience?

  1. Register on Timelet.com: A personality quiz to guide you to the table that suits you best.
  2. Secure Your Seat: Every Wednesday at 8 PM, a new world opens up for you.
  3. Anticipate Surprises: Clues on Tuesday, venue announcement on Wednesday.
  4. Dive In: Scan, smile, and savor the moment.
  5. Share Your Adventure: Your feedback is valuable for us to refine the experience.
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