The first 10 seconds
Like a lot of behavioural research, this may only apply to very specific circumstances. However the fact remains that people judge us very quickly. If you want to be a quality speaker a lot of work has to be done in the first few seconds.
When called onto the speaking platform, proceed as follows.
1 to 2 seconds
- Smile and walk on to the platform with your chin level, eyes forward and with a confident, self-assured but not cocky or arrogant stride. You don’t want to look like you are marching, but avoid dropping your shoulders or slouching.
- If there is a Chairperson or MC on stage, focus on them initially and ignore the audience. Turning your head to the audience will look a little egotistical and disrespectful towards the chair.
- If there is no Chairperson, nod your head gently towards the audience as you walk to centre stage.
3 to 4 seconds
- Greet the Chairperson with a firm but not aggressive handshake, make eye contact but don’t force it.
- Break the hand shake and allow the Chairperson to depart the stage.
(Obviously if no Chairperson is present you skip this bit.)
- Turn to audience, plant your fleet about shoulder width apart and gently, without being obvious, transfer your weight to the balls of your feet.
- This will stop you from rocking or swaying.
6 to 9 Seconds
- Keep smiling (make it a genuine smile and not a beauty pageant smile) make eye contact with several members of the audience in different parts of the room.
- Don’t be in a rush to speak. This quiet pause gives the audience time to check you out and decide that they like you.
- If you have made the confident smiling walk to the centre, acknowledged the chair and let the audience see your smile they will almost certainly like you.
- Make a fingers together, palms forward, open armed gesture and greet the audience with a clear confident voice.
Clearly you can’t time all of this exactly but work on the different stages and relative timing, especially the 4 second quiet pause, and most of your presentations will go really well.