Something Small That You Should Do Well: Bookends, Part 1

This post was written by Hannah MorrisDirector of Assessment & Advancement at The Latimer Group.

The first 30 seconds of a presentation are critical. This is the time when we establish elements of communication, connection and confidence, the three pillars of our Executive Presence Model. And this is when our audience decides how they feel about us. What I’m referring to is not the “open”, where we lay out the key points that we will be addressing, but the introduction that precedes it, where we simply initiate the conversation. It is brief and easy, and too often neglected.

If we introduce ourselves by facing the screen and reading our name off the title slide without making any eye contact, we miss our first opportunity to establish connection and project confidence. We also fail to make our presentation a conversation and invite the audience to join us in our communication. This is an easy way to lose them.

But if instead we square ourselves to the audience, make meaningful eye contact with members of the audience, and with a warm smile welcome them and introduce ourselves, we are signaling that we have something important to share with them.

When you are beginning a presentation, here’s what we recommend:

  • Welcome the audience with a “Good morning” or “Good afternoon
  • Introduce yourself with full name and department, affiliation, whatever other details may be relevant and helpful for your audience
  • Smile – a warm smile makes us relatable and demonstrates that we want to be there
  • Make eye contact – avoid the temptation to look back at the screen
  • Breathe – regulating your breathing now (and in turn your heart rate) will pay dividends throughout the presentation
  • Relax – the more comfortable you look in these moments, the more confidence you project and credibility you build, so try to release the tension in your shoulders and your death grip on the clicker

That’s it. It is simple and short and can be easily practiced. And if we use these first 30 seconds to establish our intent to communicate, basic elements of connection, and an initial show of confidence, we will start to get non-verbal cues back from the audience – a smile, a head nod, a look of interest – which will feed a positive cycle.

This is the first of two “bookends” to a presentation; closer attention to these details is a small, but important way to bring your presentations to the next level. More on the second “bookend” in a future post.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Hannah Morris

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.