Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Critical First Few Seconds

How critical are the first few seconds of a presentation?

More than you might think. Dr. Nalini Ambady at Harvard fielded a research project to study the impact of first impressions with surprising results.Two groups of college students were exposed to professors for different lengths of time.

One group sat through an entire semester with the professors. The second group only saw 2-second video clips of these same professors teaching. Each group of students was then asked to rate the performance and attitudes of the professors--surprisingly, the survey results from both groups of students were nearly identical.

In other words, after only seeing a 2-second clip of a professor these students were able to ascertain a great deal about his/her style and abilities.Likewise your audience rightly or wrongly sizes you up rather quickly when you begin a presentation.

So how do you make a great first impression?
1) Walk confidently to the front of the room.
2) Smile.
3) Pause 2-3 seconds as you look at the audience.
4) Start talking.

This communicates confidence and that you’re happy to be there (even if you feel like running for the hills). You’d be surprised how far these simple steps will go in winning over your audience before you even utter a single word.How will you make a great first impression?

Rhetorically yours,
Steve Hughes