How often have you heard that first impressions are important? Only about a bazillion times, right? People tend to form judgments on others within the first few seconds of meeting them. If you make a good first impression as a presenter, then you will have a more positive impact on your audience. But poor first impressions are very hard to put behind you.
Presenters need to make good first impressions
As a presenter, it’s vital to establish a connection with the audience right away, to make a great first impression. You want to demonstrate that you’re prepared (even if you think you aren’t), that you’re completely relaxed and confident (even if you’re nervous), and that you know your material cold (even if you need to steal a glance or two at your slides to keep on track). Any early missteps that give your audience the idea that you’re not the expert you profess to be will haunt you throughout your presentation.
Here are some ways you can make a terrible first impression and what you can do to avoid these mistakes.
Half spoiling errs.
Nothing undermines your credibility faster than spelling errors. At the very least, you should be running Spell Check on all of your presentations. But as the words at the beginning of this section show, Spell Check is not enough. You need to carefully proofread your presentation and handouts, making sure that you’re not using words incorrectly or misspelling them.
Arrive five minutes before go time.
I always show up at least an hour before my presentation is scheduled to start. This allows me to set up my presentation, distribute handouts, troubleshoot, fill my water bottle, etc.
Don’t greet people when they come in.
A big reason for coming in early is to have the opportunity to introduce yourself to the people in your audience. if you learn people’s names then you can address them directly during your presentation. Also, a conversation might reveal some tidbit that you could work into your session.
Don’t communicate with your host regarding the room setup.
You need to determine what equipment will be available to you and what the room looks like ahead of time. Will you be using your own laptop or your host’s? If it’s your laptop, is it a Mac or PC? Do you have the correct cables? Is there a projector in the room? What’s the WiFi login information? Will people be seated at desks or not? The last thing you want to be doing just before your presentation is figuring out how to present it and where your audience will be.
Use the wrong body language.
Crossed arms communicate that you are defensive or that you’re closing yourself off to people. Hands in pockets are another no-no. Wringing your hands shows that your nervous. Learn to use more confident body language such as leaning forward, smiling, and natural gestures to show people that you know exactly what you’re doing at the front of the room.
Fake it till you make it
It’s not easy to be a public speaker, but it does get better with practice. If you know the things you need to avoid doing, you will have the appearance of a confident professional even if you have butterflies in your stomach.
Strive to always make a great first impression during every presentation. Because that’s the way your audience will remember you long after your presentation’s over.