It’s probably no longer a shocking secret that you have just 7 seconds in which to make an impression and this applies to any scenario in which you are in front of someone new. Whether you’ve just walked into a room for an interview, been introduced to a prospective client or just taken centre stage to give your stunning presentation, the 7 seconds still applies.
No doubt we can all think of an example where we did change our mind for the better about someone who didn’t do so well in that 7 second test but in my experience, but why take the risk?
Why not make every effort to prepare that stunning preparation so that it’s stunningly good rather than stunningly poor?
Plan, prepare, practise are the well known alliterative maxims for a good presentation and I would add poise, presence and being pithy.
There are many more but let’s focus on those for now.
Plan what you want to say ahead of time. Choosing to wing it or letting the words come to you in the moment might mean you deliver a very disjointed presentation.
There can be plenty of leeway within that plan to be spontaneous and in the moment with your audience but at least you will cover the key points you want to get across.
Find out as ahead of time as much as you can about the event and the venue.
Tweak your content to match the audience. That might mean sharing different stories that will appeal to them or adapting the core message.
Find out about any practical things such as parking or transport to get there, timings on the day, tech checks, AV support, use of microphones, etc.
One of the best bits of advice I was ever given was to ‘practise until you know it so well that you can deliver it as if you’ve just made it up.’
Get familiar with when you want to pause, slow down or speed up, move around, etc.
Test your timing and get it right.
Even when you’ve got it to a stage you’re happy with, keep practising to allow for nerves on the day.
If you look poised and unflustered, you will look confident. When you look confident, your audience are more likely to trust your content.
Take time to own your stage before starting your delivery. By doing this you will already impress your audience as someone with poise and confidence, which in turn suggests you will have something of value to impart.
Bring your full self to the stage and own that stage.
Move with purpose, make good eye contact with the audience and smile appropriately. This all adds to your presence, in turn adding to your impact.
By continuing to fill that stage with your presence, you are more than halfway there to keeping your audience’s attention and to maintain that good impression.
In other words, avoid waffle
Express your ideas as cleverly, clearly and concisely as you can to help your audience get to grips with your main message.
Get to the heart of the main point of each section of your presentation.
Use shorter sentences or phrases to emphasise a point and think about repeating key phrases.
Add to that a well-rounded conclusion and you will be that success you set out to be.
Easier said than done?
Rachel Maunder is a communication skills and speaker coach and professional speaker.
She has been in the world of competent communication, in different guises, for more than 30 years so has a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to pass on to her clients, both through her signature programmes and her own presentations.
You can find out more about her coaching programmes here and about her speaking topics here.
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