Making A Great First Impression In Your Next Business Presentation

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As the saying goes – you never get a 2nd chance to make a great 1st impression, and yet for most of us, kicking off a presentation is the hardest part.  It’s where we often feel the least prepared and the most nervous.  To help overcome this and to help you make a really positive 1st impression we’re going to look at two things to help you make a great impression in just 1 minute.

1.  What we can do to set the scene and take control

2.  How we can say it in order to own the room

1.   Set the scene and take control 

To set the scene, all presentations should have a Purpose, and possibly some Background information, some Housekeeping and/or an Attention Grab.  For more information on these, have a quick look at this blog post about how to set the scene.

Great, so now we have some relevant scene setting information to ease you and your audience into the presentation, plus they all now know why they are there listening to you.  Now let’s look at how we can own the room and create a really strong 1st impression.

2.  Owning the room

It’s essential that you use the first 60 seconds to establish your presence, authority and credibility i.e. to sell yourself.

The first thing to do is MARK YOUR START i.e. decide where you physically want to be to start your presentation.  You obviously want to be where everyone can see you (usually at the head of the table) and you ideally want to position yourself as close to the audience as is comfortable.  This is because increasing your proximity to your audience increases your presence and appearance of confidence.  Once you’re at the spot where you want to begin, take a moment to collect and connect.

To do this, pause as this will raise your perceived confidence and authority. As you pause, breathe.  Breathing naturally will help you to appear in control, whilst also reducing your nerves.  At the same time make eye connection with your audience.  Obviously don’t eye ball every individual, but you do want to start building some non-verbal rapport with them.  As part of this, make sure you smile!  This is one of the most important assets we have – it makes us appear relaxed, approachable and in the moment – and smiling also helps to reduce nerves!

The above sounds complicated but really it’s no different to how you would behave if you were being introduced to someone for the first time – and it only takes 2-3 seconds, and these few seconds can be crucial in helping you appear poised, self assured, and ready to begin.

Ok, so now it’s time to own the room.  Here goes!

Simply go through your first scene setting chunk (i.e. purpose, background, housekeeping or attention grab) then pause.  If you don’t pause at this point, what comes out of your mouth will sound like verbal porridge.

Now change gear, up or down it doesn’t matter.  This is to make sure you begin to engage the audience and don’t come across as monotone.

Next, see if you can move/change position.  This doesn’t have to be dramatic!  A lean back in your chair or a step forward will do.

Now deliver your next scene setting chunk.  Then pause, change gear and move and so on until you reach your agenda.

QUICK WARNING – This may feel unnatural at first! But I guarantee it’s well worth it as the combination of pausing, changing gears and moving is incredibly powerful. Together they will help you own the room and come across as comfortable, confident, and in control.  At the same time, you will get the audience’s attention, maintain their engagement and build a sense of anticipation for your presentation.  A pretty good 1st impression I’m sure you would agree – all achieved in a matter of seconds. Plus, this will reduce your nerves, so that by the time you get to your agenda you should feel you’re firing on all cylinders and ready to deliver a really successful presentation.

If you want to kick off a presentation and own the room remember the first 60 seconds can make or break a presenter. So plan & practice the start so you know you’ll make a great 1st impression

p.s. remember it’s your personality that powers your presentation performance.

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