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.
Different businesses have different expectations. Flip flops and a hoodie if you’re a college software/website guy is not unusual. I think you need to be appropriate, in what you’re comfortable wearing and what makes you feel confident.
Dear Andrew –
I read somewhere that fear of speaking in public is the #1 fear.
Death is #6.
I think your outline will do a lot to help people to overcome that.
I liked the idea of a smile. It warms the audience immediately.
One way I have dealt with this is arriving early for a presentation and making a point of speaking to some of the audience personally – even picking up some names of the people and including them in the talk.
It makes them the whole group feel more friendly toward you – like you are one of them.
That’s a great tactic and one I have used to great effect in the past.
When it comes to presentations, even if your slides has more than one idea, you could always use the animation scheme “fade in one by one” effect of where one idea is shown as you click on the laptop key or wireless presenter. However, it is better to stick to the 6x6x6 rule (not more than 6 words a line, not more than 6 lines on a slide and it can be read from 6 meters away) or not having more that 30 words on a slide. Having the main points available to participants usually helps people who are none native speakers of that langauge to understand better. It is also useful for visual learners.
Great ways to get the audience to like you with that first impression. I too like the smile. Everyone reacts in a positive way to a smile. I also believe that if you are walking out on the stage, have a bounce in your step, like you are having fun and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
I do agree with the humor. It makes people relax and feel comfortable.
Again good tips for presentations and they are appreciated. They can Helps one get over the fear and have fun with your audience.
I don’t have those fear if I’m well prepared and when I know a lot about the subject. The opposite is true if I’m not well-prepared.
Agree – preparation is a must. You cannot just ‘wing it’.
I’m about to enrol on a public speaking evening class at my local adult education centre. Although I don’t often have to make presentations I agree with you at how important it is to feel confident in your abilities to get your message across. I’ve bookmarked this on Delicious for future reference!
Good luck – I hope the course goes well for you.
– try to get human touch and interaction when present.
– use the different volume of voice to to capture customer attention in important point.
– try to show something catchy and get their attraction like video and image.
Oh, public speaking has been a huge fear of mine for quite a while! I’m getting better at it all the time though, purely through practicing it and getting feedback from others. It stings a little, but I take what they share with me and use it to improve further. It’s getting easier every time.
I agree…it does get better each time and the feedback helps…as long as it is genuine feedback.
Honestly when I first held my very own seminar in Sydney I felt nervous all the way but then after around 10minutes of speaking in front of the audience I already felt okay automatically. 🙂
Appearance and presentation of content is definitely the key aspects I ensured to take place and that also really helped relieve the pressure when I saw people responding so well and understanding the whole program.
Nowadays it’s been getting a lot more comfortable as I get more exposure from guest speaking events here so all good! Thanks for the great tips.
The more you do…the better you become (and it sounds like you are having fun!).
What has seemed to work best for me is just continual practice and knowing more about the subject than what you are presenting. Knowing more makes you feel confidant and prepared for any questions.
I agree – knowing your subject is crucial.
I could never present someones ele’s talk unless I was fully prepared.