When was the last time you considered what sort of impression you were making on colleagues for your business?
Of course, we are all aware to a certain degree of the fact that we are meeting people – we dress for the occasion, wear the kind of clothes that reflect our business brand, and feel nervous at times when we know we are going to meet a potentially huge client for the first time.
However, impressions are made in an instant, and it can take many months for someone who has formed a snap judgement to revise their opinion of you if your opening gambit isn’t a positive one.
There is no activity that places you right at the heart of judgement like giving a presentation.
When we present to our customers, there is nothing between us and a sea of expectant faces, all of whom have the time and inclination to watch us closely and assess whether they think we are the right people for the job or not. Everything from the shoes we wear right up to our haircut all adds in areas for appraisal by our audience – and this is even before we open our mouths and begin to speak.
Contrary to what many people believe, you don’t have to be super-confident to make a strong first impression.
Think of some of the talent shows doing the rounds on reality television at the moment – often, the most vulnerable people up on stage are the ones that the audience warm to, sensing their fear and wanting to support them to succeed. Many winners of recent talent competitions have been championed because they allowed their fear and vulnerability to shine through, engaging the audience in a way that hyper-confident people simply can’t.
With this in mind, what does actually go in to those first moments when you are introduced to an audience, to influence their first impression of you?
As mentioned, the way you look in terms of clothing obviously has an impact – no-one wants to do business with someone who looks as if they don’t really care about their appearance. Beyond this, though, there are a few things which go a long way to cementing that first impression in a positive way, getting people onside and making them trust you and want to engage your services.
Never underestimate the power of a great smile when people first meet you. A smile shows that you are happy to be there, and want approval from the audience. From there, a strong voice and well-rehearsed presentation demonstrates that you have taken time and care over preparing for your presentation – which makes your audience feel that you value the opportunity and are keen to support them by giving them good information.
Another key aspect of great presenting is the actual layout of your presentation. Using white space, giving yourself enough time to discuss each slide without popping it all out there for your audience to read, and being really well prepared all add to the impression you will make on the people you are presenting to.
We all respond to humour, so make sure you steer clear of drab content and liven up even the most dreary subject with something to capture the imagination and laughs of the people you are sharing your knowledge with.
Ultimately, presenting is not such a dark art as many people imagine.
Even though fear of presenting is up there on our list of phobias, rubbing shoulders with fear of snakes and spiders, it’s relatively simple to present well. Be yourself, display warmth and humour and a real talent for what you do, and you won’t have to worry that your knees are knocking and there is a tremor in your voice.
People will be pre-disposed to like you, as every single person in front of you is probably mildly relieved that it is you, not them, who has to stand up and deliver!
What’s your thoughts? Do you have a fear of public speaking? Do you love to get on stage and speak?
Please share your views in the comments below.