We have just seven seconds to make a good first impression according to Forbes; 27 seconds according to a study by Dollar Shave Club; or as little as one tenth of a second according to studies by Bulgarian psychologist Alexander Todorov. The data differs, but it’s pretty clear regardless that we don’t have long.
A Harvard study revealed that it typically takes eight subsequent positive encounters to change another person’s negative opinion. When it comes to our businesses, our brands and ourselves, we don’t always have that luxury of eight further attempts to undo damage, which is why it’s essential to get it right the first time. This applies to all of our business endeavours, as well as in our personal lives!
When it comes to speaking or presenting at events, the speaker has to get it right instantly in order to captivate their audience. Whether it’s warranted or not, people will make some sort of judgement or assumption about the speaker before they have even opened their mouth. BBC’s new Saturday night entertainment show, I Can See Your Voice, follows a concept whereby a celebrity panel must judge if a selection of ‘singers’ are in fact talented singers, without being able to hear them sing. Though light-hearted, it plays upon the importance of body language, confidence and in many ways, the unavoidable misconception of stereotypes.
As the sector once again prepares for a return to live events, even the most competent speakers may feel overwhelmed again when it comes to captivating large live audiences. Here are five top tips for ensuring you’re making a positive first impression when speaking at your next event:
- Maximise pre-event marketing opportunities
A first impression begins long before you step out on stage. Reputation (which admittedly is a much longer process) plays an important role in people’s assessment of you. In the event’s marketing collateral, your own social media channels and surrounding promotion of the event, you have the opportunity to create anticipation around your presentation and find ways to offer value ahead of the session itself. If you’re leaving the audience wanting more before you’ve even begun, you’re off to a good start.
- Know your audience
If possible, liaise with event organisers ahead of time to glean any insights into who has registered to attend your event. Knowing exactly who you’re speaking to will help you tailor your approach to make it relevant and relatable. To go one step further, interact with your audience on the day and find out more about them by show of hands or through the use of technology such as polling apps like Slido.
- Dress the part
Knowing your audience naturally helps determine what is or isn’t appropriate to wear. Though there should be a certain level of individuality and free choice to dress comfortably, it is still important to have an awareness of the tone of the event. If you’re speaking to an audience at a formal black tie award ceremony, shorts and flip flops might not be the best attire when it comes to making a good first impression. Remember that being on stage is very different to being on Zoom – the audience can see more than just your shoulders upwards!
- Maintain positive and assertive body language
You might be a bag of nerves, but it’s important that your audience sees your confidence and positivity. The more sure of yourself you look, the more at ease the audience will feel that you know what you’re talking about. They’re there to listen to you as the expert. Be aware of how you stand and how you hold the microphone as well as communicating a sincere passion for the topic you’re speaking on – passion is infectious!
- Find your opening hook
As you enter the stage, don’t dwell too much on giving a long autobiographical introduction about your work, experience and achievements as your very first opener. Instead, can you start with a captivating statistic, a short anecdotal story or a funny one-liner? That’s the hook which captures interest and allows you to then give your background context ahead of your topic.
Overall, the intention of making a good first impression is that it translates into a lasting impression. Therefore, after the event, remind your audience about all the reasons why they were instantly hooked! Share the key messages and highlights with attendees as a follow up soon after the event so they have your contact details while momentum is still high.
At Custard, supporting and encouraging clients with relevant speaking opportunities at industry events is part of the full consultancy programme that we offer. To find out more, get in touch with a member of the Custard team today.