People often say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”, and that’s actually quite true — which is why it’s so important to be aware of the image that you portray to those you meet.

So, knowing that, how do you make the best first impression possible? Everyone’s different, and while you don’t want to be too structured in your manner, there are definitely some elements you’ll want to keep in mind to help you show yourself in the best possible light.

It is said that we take less than five seconds to evaluate someone new that we meet. And in that time, the other person formulates an opinion about you, your dress, your body language, your warmth, your posture, your smile, and your speech. Making a good first impression is really very important, because very often that image is the one that is retained.

So, here are a few ways in which you can ensure that people’s first impression of you is a good one.

Appearance matters

It is said that ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, so it is imperative that your appearance says exactly who you are. When working in a different culture, be respectful for that particular nationality. Different communities/sectors have different clothing styles. Pinstripe suits may be an acceptable dress in Dubai International Financial Centre or the City of London but maybe totally unsuitable for an IT manager or an advertising executive. Large, pink, hoop ear-rings may look good at a party but not at a job interview.

Be on time

When attending a meeting, it is essential to be punctual. It doesn’t matter if you are early, but it is important that you do not keep other people waiting. If you are late, this will almost certainly put you at a disadvantage and it may be that your boss won’t invite you again!

Be yourself

Don’t try to be someone you are not. If you are not genuine, then your lack of sincerity will be palpable and your opportunity to win new friends or make important new connections will be lost. Be open and confident but not over-confident in that it becomes arrogance or you are seen as flippant. Nervous, inappropriate humour can obstruct the development of a genuine conversation or discussion in which your opinion is valued.

Be interested and interesting

Research on the internet in advance about you will be meeting. This will give you an advantage upon being introduced. And don’t forget that others may have researched you as well! Ask open questions and display a genuine interest and adopt a ‘spirit of curiosity’. Make it clear that not only do you know your subject but that you are genuinely interested in theirs as well.

Be positive

Your attitude shows through in everything you do and say. Whether you are feeling confident or ill at ease will be displayed by your demeanour and speech. You need to be aware of the absence of spontaneity, or flatness of your mood, that can be displayed in your facial expressions, body language and choice of words.

Be courteous

In multi-cultural environments, ensure that you know the correct way to speak and how to initiate and develop a conversation in a way that will be acceptable.

However, don’t forget that in today’s world, the first impression of you might be made online just by ‘Googling’ your name before you have even met. An astute interviewer might get their research team to check out your social networking accounts as this might tell them more about you than you would tell them yourself!

So, the next time you write about that Friday night out, don’t forget that once your message is posted, it is out there for anyone to read about you. Your online presence can shape the perception that other people have of you before they have even met you.

You can go from making a good impression to making a great impression with just a little preparation. And don’t forget to switch off your cell phone before you go into that meeting, otherwise everyone will just remember the disruption your phone made and not the contribution that you made.

 The author is a BBC guest broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.