What’s the one thing in life you can never get a second chance at? You only get one opportunity to make a great first impression. If you fail to show someone who you are, what you’re capable of, and why they should want to know you and work with you, then you could end up fighting an uphill battle that could last weeks, months, or even years. And, in some cases, you may never be able to wash away a bad first impression.

So how can you guarantee that you’ll make the best first impression when you meet clients, investors, partners, competitors, or anyone else who matters for your business or the rest of your life? While you can’t control outside circumstances, you can control your own actions. Follow a few simple tips, and you’ll be able to make a great first impression every time.

RESPECT OTHERS’ TIME 

Being on time is much more important than you might think. Some people think that being punctual means they are strict rule followers or that they are too uptight. But when you tell someone you’re going to meet them at a certain time, it’s both rude and disrespectful to keep them waiting. Doing so tells them that you don’t have any respect for their time.

Life does happen on occasion, and you can’t always be right on time for every single meeting. When you do have to be late, give the person you’re meeting plenty of warning, apologize for your tardiness when you arrive, and understand that you’re now going to have to work a bit harder to make a good impression, especially if you left them waiting for more than a couple of minutes.

TURN YOUR CELL PHONE OFF

Want to make the best impression possible? Turn your cell phone off or at least turn your ringer off. Don’t even look at your phone to check the time while you’re talking with them. This shows that you’re listening and that you respect them enough not to divide your attention between them and whoever’s on the other end of your phone.

STAY POSITIVE

Even if someone did something incredibly stupid that you had to fix at work, if someone cut you off in traffic, if you’ve had a terrible experience with their competition, or anything else, keep the conversation positive. Don’t badmouth others, or the person you’re speaking with will wonder what you’ll be saying behind their back later.

DON’T FIDGET

Fidgeting is a dead giveaway that you’re nervous and unsure of yourself. If you’re meeting with a potential investor or partner for your business, practice the meeting several times and go over what you’ll say and how you’ll answer their questions calmly and coolly. In addition to remembering what to say, this will also help you calm your nerves and avoid fidgeting.

LEARN WHEN TO SHUT YOUR MOUTH

You don’t have to talk the whole time. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. Answer any questions they have for you but don’t forget to ask questions of them, too. Keep your answers clear and concise, and listen to what they have to say about themselves, as well as what they may be concerned about if they’re considering going into business with you. The more you listen, and the less you babble, the better your impression will be.

Follow these tips, relax, and be yourself, and you’ll be on your way to making a great first impression every single time you meet someone new.

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