6 Simple Tips to Make a Great First Impression

05/01/2015 02:46 pm ET | Updated May 01, 2016

I'm sure you've heard it before that it only takes six seconds for someone to form a first impression. So how can you use those six seconds to your best advantage? Be prepared. If you know you're going to be meeting someone new, it pays to come to the meeting prepared.

I've gathered six simple suggestions that can help you feel more prepared for that next important first impression -- whether you're headed for a job interview, a new client meeting, or a party with a lot of people you don't know well, these steps can help ease your nervousness and help you nail those six seconds.

People like other people who are friendly and open, and a nice smile can open a lot more doors than your resting grump face. Smiling also projects confidence and makes you appear trustworthy.

Be prepared.
Whatever the situation, follow the Boy Scout motto and be prepared. If it's a job interview that might mean you practice answering questions, familiarize yourself with the company, bring any required paperwork, and have a few backup copies of your resume on hand. For a presentation, practice (a lot), have all the tech you could possibly need, arrive early, know what questions are likely to be asked, and so on.

Do a little research.
If you know you're going to be meeting someone new, do a little research ahead of time. Find out their hobbies, associations they're a part of, or causes they support. LinkedIn makes this easy, but there are also apps, like Refresh, which can deliver a dossier on your contacts before any meeting automatically. Of course, don't act like a stalker; keep the topics to things that make sense in a business setting, like asking about a board they serve on, rather than complimenting them on their latest Facebook photos.

Arrive early.
You may have heard the old saying, "To be early is to be on time; to be on time is to be late; to be late is to be sorry!" It's especially apt when meeting someone new. Being on time shows that you're responsible and respectful, but if you arrive a few minutes early, you'll have time to use the restroom, check your appearance, and compose yourself before your meeting. It's important to add extra time in case of inclement weather, traffic, finding parking, etc.

Turn off distractions.
There's nothing more embarrassing than having your phone go off in the middle of an important introduction or meeting -- unless it's actually checking your phone during said meeting. Set your phone to silent before you ever arrive, and, if the vibrations letting you know you've been retweeted are still too big a temptation, turn the whole thing off.

Be curious.
When it comes to conversation skills, simply being curious will help you truly engage with the person you're speaking to. Ask thoughtful questions and really listen to the answer, instead of using the time to plan your response.

These are just a few of my own ideas, and I'd love to hear yours. What's your best advice for making a good first impression?