Over the last week or so I have sat through six business presentations of different sorts and in different circumstances- from a short introductory one at a networking event, a bid proposal, through to ones from business leaders and international entrepreneurs at a public event.
And four out of the six began in THE worst possible way…..
and this is common for many people involved in public speaking and presenting.
I do believe that people do the best with the skills they have but changing just this one thing would make such a big difference to how their presentation is received and how the audience responds.
So what is the
worst possible way to start a presentation?
To begin with an apology.
Why is this a problem? because when you speak you create re-presentations in the minds of your audience so when you begin with an apology you are creating a negative impression and that can be really difficult to change because your audience won’t have confidence in you.
In ” Blink” Malcolm Gladwell talks about how we may have as little as 2 seconds to make a first impression and you can’t afford for that to be a negative one.
I’ll give you the examples I heard this week together with typical internal audience responses …..
” I’m sorry but I’m not familiar with the equipment so bear with me” ……
You’re basically saying that you couldn’t be bothered to practise. Why should the audience bear with you? Their time is precious too.
” I’m not used to speaking to such an audience and I hope I won’t bore you too much “…..
Well you’ve just told me you’re going to be boring so I probably will be bored!
“ I hate following X because I’m not as good a speaker as he is” …..
Actually he wasn’t very good anyway and you’ve just told me you’ll be worse!
“ I know I have 55 slides to show you in 30 mins but I will be quick“…..
So I can expect “Death by Powerpoint” then!
And although it probably wasn’t intentional each of these shows a lack of respect for the audience.
Not surprisingly these particular presentations did not receive a standing ovation!
Far from it in fact . In each case the audience very quickly looked bored and switched off.
And with just a little adjustment each one could have been so much better.
I would recommend that you never,ever,ever apologize at the beginning of your presentation if you want it to be well received.
The beginning of your presentation is so important. It is crucial in building rapport and determining how your audience will respond to you.
So begin with positive statements, stories, inspiring quotations etc.
There are lots of ways to begin that will set the scene in the listeners’ minds that you are worth listening to and you’ll have grabbed their attention from the start. Being great at public speaking and presenting is all about connecting and engaging your audience and it takes practise!
Until next time,
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with best wishes for your success,
Cath Daley Ltd.