It has been said that an audience decides in the first 30 seconds of a presentation whether or not to listen.
That doesn’t sound like very long but think back to the last time you were part of an audience.
The speaker may have shuffled papers on the way to the front of the room with his face buried. Maybe he was still organizing his notes along the way. For some reason, he felt the need to look down while he was sharing his first thoughts. He looked unprepared, bored, and disinterested. You began to question his ability to even communicate on the subject and wondered what he could possibly know that you didn’t already.
How long would you give that speaker? It’s very likely that you wouldn’t listen much past his introduction, if you made it that far.
There are many elements at work in those first few seconds, but remembering these three simple things will put you well on your way to earning the attention of your audience.
- Stand tall — We can tell if someone even wants to be in the room by the posture they use. How you hold yourself physically sends a loud and clear message to your audience without saying a word. Stand tall and hold your head high, even while walking to the front of a room. When an audience sees a confident speaker they see a credible speaker.
- Make eye contact — Are you introducing yourself, your topic, or taking the time to deliver a great attention-getter? It will fall flat if your eyes are not on your audience. Make eye contact with a small group of the audience for a sustained thought of your presentation. Then navigate the room, one small group at a time, one thought at a time. We trust and connect with someone who can look us in the eye.
- Use smile power — Don’t underestimate the power of a smile. Smiling people are generally taken to be more likable. Likability increases your credibility, as does being genuine. Forcing emotion won’t work. Use the natural expressions you would in a conversation.
You step confidently to the front of the room. Instead of looking at your notes, you know your first words and look directly at your audience, making sure to address the entire room. Your facial expression is welcoming, adding emphasis to your words and making it easier to understand your overall meaning. It is as if you are simply talking to the audience, holding a one-on-one conversation. You take the time to connect, and your audience responds by doing the same.
Chances are you’ll earn more than 30 seconds of your audience’s time.