The Ultimate Greeting–Your Handshake

Tradeshow Tip!

Use these helpful tips to make your time at the JAX Chamber Annual Trade Show on April 23rd a success!

The Ultimate Greeting–Your Handshake

By Carolle Vargas

We all know how important first impressions are: how we carry ourselves, our body language, dress, and appearance. When you meet someone for the first time, you are assessed before you utter a word. What people see, hear, feel and, yes, even smell, impact their first impression of you. All of this information is downloaded in seconds, and is not easily erased, if at all.

The handshake is a personal thing because we actually touch someone—the only time in business we actually touch another person. This ultimate greeting is conveyed with warmth and respect.

Be prepared. Your handshake is an extension of your personality. Polish this skill and truly shine when you present yourself.


8 Tips for a Great Handshake:

  1. Be genuinely pleased to meet, greet, and shake hands. People see these sincere feelings in your eyes and smile, and they hear it in the words you use to greet them. Letting your eyes fall away while greeting with a handshake implies that you are not interested or something else is more important. It is disrespectful and people never forget how they feel when this happens. Anything missing from this important presentation will diminish, if not prevent, a great first impression.
  2. Be prepared to offer your hand first. Keep your right hand free and ready. Business events are gender neutral; no need to see if a woman offers her hand first. Women, this is no time to be demure. Get your hand out there! Be aware of cultures where handshaking is not customary.
  3. Squarely face the person you are greeting. Obtain a solid grasp by extending your hand–fingers forward and straight, thumb pointing to the ceiling. Aim for the palm of the hand and connect web to web (that space on your hand between your thumb and forefinger). Apply firm, but gentle pressure. Give two quick shakes from the elbow and release.
  4. Take a cue and determine the best time to release if the person you are greeting lingers for a moment before releasing your hand. Remember, it’s just creepy to hang onto a hand too long.
  5. Move around any obstacles so nothing stands between you and the person you are greeting. This gesture tells others they are important to you, and will win you points!
  6. Shake hands when saying goodbye. Say a few words such as: great talking to you, it’s been a pleasure to meet you, hope we can meet again. Use warmth in your voice and eyes and you will be someone people will look forward to seeing again—soon.


Don’t Be This Person:

  1. Bone crusher: this is not a sporting event or contest of strength. Not nice.
  2. Dead fish: limp hands, fingers only, or otherwise wimpy handshake. Yes, it is perceived as wimpy.
  3. Two-handed or gloved handshake: okay to use only when offering condolences. This can appear patronizing and will diminish your credibility. Best left to religious leaders and politicians.


Keep These Important Points in Mind:

  • Hands Must Be Clean, Groomed, Warm, and Dry:
  1. Clean hands are expected unless you are in the middle of a project that has you in dirt, grease, bread dough (hey, it could happen!), or the like. Not only should hands be clean for aesthetic purposes, but also for health reasons. Seeing someone sneeze into his or her hand and then offer a handshake is… well… disgusting. Clean includes fingernails.
  2. Groomed hands mean hands that are manicured, professionally or done at home. If you have a condition that lends to warts or other scabs (yuck!), seek remedies, as these are definite turnoffs. Be sure nails are trimmed and hands are moisturized.
  3. Warm hand, cold heart–or is it cold hand, warm heart? I say warm hands feel good! Unless you have just come out of the cold, be sure to offer up warm hands. That means keeping cold drinks (which also make your hands wet) in your left hand.
  4. Dry hands are up there with warm hands. A wet handshake is as welcome as the “dead fish” handshake. Wet hands can come from cold drinks, ineffective hand drying, or excessive perspiration. Carry cold beverages in your left hand and grab an extra towel to ensure dry hands. If your hands tend to perspire, consider applying antiperspirant to your palms before an event.
  • Rings: Zealous handshakes can make for painful handshakes when wearing overly large or multiple rings.
  • Injuries: Shaking hands with someone wearing a cast or bandage is awkward and can be a turnoff. If your right hand is injured, offer your left hand. The other person will understand and appreciate the gesture. They will also be happy to not worry about hurting you.


Carolle Vargas is a business etiquette and international protocol consultant and owner of Your Etiquette Style. She is certified by The Protocol School of Washington®.  With more than 20 years in the customer service and training industry, Carolle brings to her clientele in-depth knowledge on what it takes to stand out in today’s market.

Carolle has extensive experience in the telecommunications industry where she developed and presented seminars in leadership and coached management teams. She worked domestically and internationally with colleagues and clients to promote successful and profitable relationships.

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