The old adage is true: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. But is telling a joke or using a cheesy icebreaker really the way to start?
Think through how you want the very beginning of your presentation to affect your audience. What’s the first thing you want them to experience? What kind of first impression do you want to make on them? What’s the mood you want your introduction to create? Remember, what you say isn’t the only thing that creates an impression. The room where you’re presenting, the lighting, the music (if you choose to play music), the items the audience may find on their chairs, pre- presentation images on the screen, how you’re dressed, how you enter the room—all of these things work together to create the first impression.
Even though you very much want the audience to like you for your mind and not your appearance, their first impression is going to be based on how you look—at least for a while. The people in the audience will mentally categorize you in just a few seconds, and then decide whether or not you’re a person they can connect with.
Aristotle argued against letting first impressions influence the perceived validity of the content. He said, “Trust… should be created by the speech itself, and not left to depend upon an antecedent impression that the speaker is this or that kind of man.” In ancient Greece, however, oration was very sophisticated, and followed many rules. Most people in today’s audiences are a bit shallower, and will use the first few crucial seconds to judge your credibility.
Many people fear public speaking because they’re afraid of being judged. You need to realize that you have the power to shape and control the first impression that people use as a basis for judging you.
Don’t let yourself be intimidated. The things on people’s minds while they’re waiting for a presentation to begin would amaze you. The following chat streams let you see —and take comfort in—just how shallow and mindless they are. These are the real comments of audience members just before an actual presentation started:
Yep, that’s the stuff on their minds before you present. Nothing earth-shattering. Their expectations are pretty low and self-focused, so creating a memorable first impression with these folks shouldn’t be too tough.