According to bestselling author, Malcolm Gladwell, in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, "Snap judgments are...enormously quick: they rely on the thinnest slices of experience."
In our personal worlds, decisions are made in the blink of an eye: when house hunting, the assessment we make as soon as we walk through the door; the assumptions we make when we see someone dressed radically different from the norm; the impression we have as someone arrives for an interview.
If snap judgments are part of our modus operandi, what implications does this have for presenters?
It means that in the first few moments the audience sees you, you are being judged, assessed, evaluated. Long before you open your mouth. Long before you get to the main message of your presentation.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO CREATE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION?
- Be prepared, with AV equipment checked, handouts sorted and slides ready. If you seem disorganized and rattled over logistics, your audience may assume that your presentation will be equally disorganized.
- Look your best. One of the most common snap judgments is making assumptions based on how someone is dressed or groomed. Be sure your appearance is suitable for the particular audience. The mad scientist look may be acceptable at a conference of peers but not work so well in the venture capitalist's boardroom.
- Be friendly. Don't bury you head in your notes for that one last review as the audience is coming into the room. Go greet them at the door, as if you were welcoming them to your home. Interact with individuals prior to commencing your presentation. This can help greatly to create an impression that you're personable and worth listening to.
- Smile. Establish a connection on a human level and let people know you're glad they've come to hear you speak.
You have a fleeting opportunity at the outset of your presentation to shape the lens through which the audience initially sees you...before you speak, before they start to experience your message. Do your utmost to make this "thinnest slice of experience" as positive as you can.
flickr/LadyDragonfly C.C. 2.0