first impression

Make Your First Impression Count When Public Speaking

Whenever public speaking in front of an audience, we only have one chance of making a good first impression, so make it count. What your audience heard and read about you before your presentation isn’t enough to make a lasting impression. Yes, these may help to spark their interest, make them come to your presentation and lend you their ears for the first few minutes. But this alone is not enough to make them stay engaged and interested until the end of your public speaking.

Make the most out of the first 5-10 minutes of your speech to make a strong first impression that will grab not only your audience’s interest and attention but also help establish your credibility as a speaker. Keep in mind that it is not only about how you speak or the words that you say. Your stance, body language and how you dress also play a role in making your first impression count. Here are some helpful tips to make a good first impression when public speaking:

  1. Dress to match the level of how your audience dresses

How you dress is one of the first things that your audience notices when you walk on stage. This will either help build or lessen your credibility. This is why it is important to match the level of how your audience dresses. If you are over dressed, you will look silly. If you are under dressed, you automatically lose credibility. The easiest way to ensure that you are not overdressed or under dressed is it to do a background check on your audience. If you are among a group of lawyers or accountants, I would wear a suit and tie. If I am talking to Nurses and Doctors I would wear the suit, but without a tie. If I am working with mining engineers on site, then it is a safety vest and safety shoes. Consider the overall theme the audience and match that to what you are planning to wear.

  1. Focus on positive and confident body language

Your audience will also be looking at your body language as you come up on stage. Remember that when you walk towards the stage, you are not yet speaking, and all your audience sees is how you dress, walk and move. Always remember to smile and keep a positive body language. Make sure your audience only sees confidence on how you stand or hold the microphone. Maintain your positive body language before you speak, all throughout your presentation and even after you finished delivering your public speaking.

  1. Give strong opening comments

Your opening comments as a public speaker need to have impact and create relevance to your audience. As you begin your presentation and deliver your opening comments, this is when you start cementing your credibility. What you say and how you deliver your speech will make that first impression – from how you dress, walk and move – last. The first 30 seconds needs to be powerful, relevant and memorable. Start strong.

  1. Demonstrate cultural awareness

Another way to further establish your credibility when public speaking is to demonstrate that you are aware of cultural issues around the audience. This is often done by acknowledging traditional land owners or talking about issues that your audience are facing. Let them know that you are aware of their reasons and goals for attending your presentation.

You’ll know what issues they are facing by researching your audience’s industry. Find out what problems they are looking to resolve from listening to you. Talk about these problems or mention something about your audience. Personally, I do this by starting with a story that shows people that I have researched their industry, their problems/issues and that I know something about them.

Making a strong first impression helps you grab your audience’s attention and keep them interested all throughout your presentation. Plus, it helps build your credibility as a speaker. Always remember that first impressions last, so make yours count.

We are running a series of public speaking and communication skills workshops in Darwin – Assertive Communication Skills Workshop on 22 October, Effective Communication Skills on 22 October, Difficult Conversations on 23 October and Thinking and Speaking Off the Cuff on 23 October.

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