Pop Quiz: How many chances do you get to make a first impression?
If you said more than one, go to the principal’s office.
In the art of speaking, you have two chances to make an impression; a first one and a lasting one. Many speakers I know work hard and long on their opening line. Crafting just the right combination of catchy phrase, teasing possibility, and creative nuance is no simple task. I applaud them for this effort. But sadly, for many of them, they are so concentrated on this one aspect they forget they are communicating volumes of information to their audience long before they even open their mouth.
It is clearly evident that your audience is most highly focused at two points in your presentation - when you are first introduced and, if you’ve managed to keep them focused throughout your presentation, at the end when you leave them with your parting thought.
You Cannot NOT Communicate
Communication is a constant process. Even when you think it’s over, it still goes on. And, in the instance I am referring to now, it starts before you may actually think it does. Because of this, it is important for you, as a speaker, to remember that your audience remembers the first thing it sees, which is you. Before you speak, you are the presentation.
The audience remembers and judges your credibility and authority on a variety of things. Among these is your personal presentation. Personal presentation attributes may include wardrobe, posture, facial expressions, eye contact, and confidence. If you take the stage with less than a sense of ownership it’s unlikely your audience will buy into what you are saying. No one trusts an unsettled peddler.
This does not mean that you should dress in formal attire for every presentation. Do so only when the occasion requires it. But it does mean, that whatever attire you choose, it should show a precise level of respect for your audience and the occasion. One rule of thumb is to dress at or one level above your audience. If they are wearing business casual, where a business suit with no tie. If they are wearing ties, you need to wear one too.
Don’t forget to do the rest of the stuff too. Because, as a speaker, you can’t control where your audience chooses to focus their attention, don’t give them a reason to stare at something else. So, shine your shoes, press your pants, and straighten your skirt. In other words, take a moment to look in the mirror and see what they will see. It’s hard enough these days to command an audiences’ full attention. The first impression you make can go a long way toward establishing the connection you will nurture throughout your presentation.
So bear in mind, the audience remembers the first thing it sees and the first thing it sees is you. Use this opportunity to make your profound first impression.
The Two Least Powerful Words in a Speaker’s Vocabulary
Building personal relationship is the primary function of communication. It is the primary function of any speaker as well. Sometimes when we speak it is easy to lose sight of this principle. Speakers often get so wrapped up in the essence of their pitch they forget about building the bond of trust central to all relationships.
I’ve seen it written lately that the two most powerful words in the English language are “Thank You”. I don't disagree. Nothing will help you build the bond of team work and cooperation more than acknowledging someone else’s contribution by saying, “Thanks”. When you’re speaking, saying “Thank You” is a patronizing and very insufficient way to establish the lasting bond. It offers your audience nothing and does very little to connect them to your content and purpose.
After all, in most speaking situations, it is unlikely that you will address the same people on the same topic with the same content more than once. In addition, there is very little of a participatory role for the audience to play in establishing a relationship with you other than being respectful, engaged and appreciative of your presentation. But, somehow, this does not stop a host of speakers from ending their presentation with the words, “Thank you.”
Since the evidence shows that an audience will remember the last thing it hears, doesn’t it make sense that the last thing ought to be of value to them. And that the thing of value, ought to relate directly to the topic, content and purpose of your speech.
So, how can you tell your audience how much you appreciate them and still leave them with a lasting impact?
The Last Thing You Want Your Audience to Hear
At the end of your speech, after you have reminded your audience of the purpose of your speech and all of the supporting points you covered in support of your purpose, this is the time you bring it to a close. This is the time to make your ever-lasting impact. So, say “Thank you” and then “Good Bye”.
Try something like this:
“I just want to take a moment here before my final thought to say “Thank you” for the time and attention you have given me during my presentation. It is truly appreciated.”
Take a moment to smile, make eye contact and nod your head in approval as you acknowledge your audience.
Then launch into your final comment. Make it a single, simple sentence that will button hole the importance of your presentation. And then, stop talking. Smile. Bow your head and look for the person who brought you to the stage.
You may get many or a few opportunities to speak. My advice is to make every one of them count to their fullest degree. Don’t give away the sweetness of the inspiration and expertise you bring to the stage by creating sour moments with a lackluster first impression and listless ending impact.
Making a profound first impression and an ever-lasting impact is totally within your control as a speaker.
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To Your Speaking Success.
The Speech Wiz