Studies in psychology reveal that it takes us anything from 7 to 17 seconds to form a first impression of someone. That doesn’t give us much time to win over our whole audience! So what’s the best way to start a presentation? Should you use a quote? A bit of comedy? An intriguing question? A song and dance? 😉
Here are some tips on the best way to start a presentation and to make a good first impression.
1. Have a great opening slide
The first slide in your set can be as important as your appearance. Even if the audience loves you, as soon as they see a boring opening slide they will automatically lose interest. A bad opening slide will devalue your presentation – and you. Develop a first slide that will grab your audience’s attention – it could be a catchy title or an eye catching visual. Or get some help from professionals (us) so that the whole deck matches your value.
Whist the first slide carries some weight, don’t undermine it by having weak slides to follow!
2. Don’t be late
One of the most common ways to get someone’s back up before they have even had chance to meet you is by arriving late. People are busy, so be respectful of their time. Allow yourself ample time to get to the venue so that you don’t keep your host or audience or interviewer waiting.
3. Be prepared
As well as giving yourself time to get to the venue, make sure you have scheduled yourself time to get everything set up before your audience arrives. If you are still trying to work your laptop or arrange the room layout as your audience arrives they will immediately assume you are unorganised and unreliable.
4. Be friendly
It’s easier to get people on side if they warm to you. As your audience arrive greet each one with a smile, and handshake (if not in times of pandemic), and introduce yourself. Try to remember as many names as possible, people like to be remembered and if you can use their name when asking or responding to a question they are more likely to connect with you.
5. Dress to impress
If you are presenting to a big corporate client wear a smart business suit. If you are presenting to a more laid back audience, such as students, then you can get away with being a bit more casual, but as a rule try to always be dressed smarter than your audience so you come across as professional. Also limit loud accessories or shirts as these can be distracting – you want to be remembered for your presentation, not your outfit! Remember Steve Jobs? Always in the same black polo neck & jeans? That’s strong personal branding. It was consistent and I’m going to assume: comfortable.
Above all, wear something that’s comfortable.
6. Be natural
We can all smell a fraud when a person isn’t behaving naturally. Relax, be yourself. It would be weird to smile 100% of the time: so don’t! Having a great slide deck by your side will give you confidence, but remember it’s the presenter that we’re all meeting. It can feel like a lot of pressure, so get as much practice as you can under your belt. You’ll find it easier to be yourself when presenting is a normal thing to you. Enjoy it!
For more tips on how first impressions count while delivering a presentation, have a read through our blog post on body language here.
Got some further ideas? Let us know what is your best way to start a presentation too!
View some great presentation design ideas here.