Whether you’re doing a presentation in front of the board of directors, or simply to your parents explaining why you should move to Nashville (ahem, Taylor Swift, we’re looking at your girl!), it’s important to nail the first minute or so.
Those first sixty seconds are absolutely crucial to the success or potential failure of your presentation. The first minute you spend in front of an audience is pivotal. If you’re nervous or overly excited, time can turn into a blur. But this moment is exactly when the audience decides whether or not they like you so you have to make it count.
1. Plan your opening, well in advance
You should know precisely how you’re going to open your speech. Audiences will notice your body language, confidence level, and demeanour. So don’t just focus on what you will say, practice your movements and tone. Look for ways to signal that you’re a person with a valuable message to share.
2. If possible, prepare the room in advance
If you like to move around the room, make sure there’s room to move. However, if you feel more comfortable standing in the one place, set up your aids (water, notes, clicker, etc) so they are easy to access. Make sure the lighting and sound are working well for you and the room. The worst thing you could do in the first sixty seconds is to step in front of a crowd and start fumbling!
3. Expect the unexpected (and don’t get fazed by it!)
You could have a crowd of hungover folks turning up for a major keynote speech (note to self: don’t be the first speaker of the morning in a casino). Or you could have five hundred people show up for a casual discussion. The lights could go out and come back on. Maybe the projector doesn’t work! Think of all the things that could go wrong, and prepare yourself for the worse case scenario! But no matter what happens, keep calm and carry on. If you do this, you’ll win over the room in no time at all!
4. Be immediately interesting
I know housekeeping is important. But just don’t start with it! First, build a rapport with the audience and demonstrate that you’re in control and worth their attention and time. Audiences are more than happy to listen to housekeeping rules and support a speaker once they recognize their talents.
5. If you’re nervous or terrified, accept it and use it to your advantage
Shaking like a leaf? Then, as part of your planned opening say something that either acknowledges your anxiety or makes it seem like good acting. You can always weave your admission of nerves into a joke to warm up the crowd!