I was fortunate enough to sit in on this workshop yesterday morning and got a lot of useful ideas from it.
The trainer Kathleen Sullivan from KSCoaching was excellent. Especially when you consider that we were all much more conscious of her presentation approach given the nature of the workshop. I was immediately impressed by the way she coped with an initial technical hitch, because I have seen this throw many experienced presenters in the past.
The topic of First Impressions was well-known to most of the audience, but given its importance, was worth spending time on.
According to research you have up to seven seconds (and often much less) to make an initial impression. And if this is ‘wrong’, it can be very hard to recover from. ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’.
There are six key elements that go to make up that first impression:
1. Handshake – Ideally, you don’t want your handshake to be memorable. We all have strong memories of handshakes that are too weak and limp, or too strong and bone crushing. Even more important it is to make eye contact at the same time.
2. Appearance – Again, we all know of the importance of being clean and tidy, but sometimes you can be over-dressed for your audience. ‘If you stand out from the crowd, ask yourself it it’s for the right reasons.’
3. Eye contact – Establish good eye contact, but don’t stare or blink unnaturally.
4. Posture – You posture will have an impact on your audience and yourself. An open relaxed posture makes you feel more confident and will inspire confidence in those you are talking to. Your shoulders should be dropped, not hunched, your back should be upright, but not ramrod straight, your feet should be firmly planted on the ground, no crossing of legs or leaning on tables or walls for support. Your hands can rest on the table, in your lap or by your side, not hidden from view (indicates hiding something from your audience).
5. Facial expressions – A gentle smile with both your mouth and eyes is good. A fixed grin (à la Miss World competitions of old) is false, and pursing or biting of lips is worse.
6. Body language – To indicate fear, insecurity and defensiveness do the following; clutch your thumbs, sit on your hands, fold your arms and lock your fingers together. ‘A confident speaker has open, relaxed hands that move in line with what they are saying and have nothing to hide.’
The tricky bit is getting all of these right when you are in a stressful situation, such as a job interview or presenting to a potential hostile audience.
The key objective is to build rapport as quickly as possible.
Here are some additional suggestions taken from my notes:
1. Shake hands with everyone you can, and when you do, say something positive and upbeat like, ‘lovely to meet you’.
2. Aim to create positive energy in the relationship, not negativity. Don’t be an ‘energy vampire’.
3. Be authentic, open and positive. Speak with passion and say what you mean. Your audience will smell out fakery every time.
4. Be interesting without being overly controversial or opinionated.
5. Listen twice as much as you speak. Practice being silent. It makes you seem more intelligent too.
6. Acknowledge and validate their thoughts, ideas and feelings. Repeat their language back to them (mirroring).
7. Using matching and mirroring of body positions to aid rapport. A 30 to 50 second delay is ‘natural’.
8. Manage interruptions when you are presenting by acknowledging the speaker and repeating their comment to the rest of the audience. Once validated the interrupter is likely to feel satisfied and be quiet. Finally, sweep away the interruption with a wave of your arm and move on.
9. Shake hands to signify the end the meeting.
10. Leave a room with your face. In other words, make sure as you walk out of a meeting you turn and say your final goodbye so they see your face last, rather than the back of your head.