Make A Good Impression on the Podium

If you have a long memory, you might remember a TV ad that reminded viewers “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” So, how can you help yourself (or the speaker you write for) pass that all-important test on the podium?

The key is to understand the way people judge others on a first encounter. American psychologist and author Amy Cuddy says we do it by asking ourselves two questions:

• Can I trust this person? and
• Can I respect this person?

In other words, Cuddy says we size up the people we meet based first on trust or “warmth”. Then we consider what she terms their “competence”.

Here are three things you can do to make a good impression when you give a speech or presentation.

Write a speaker intro for yourself that describes you as a person and explains why your talk is important and relevant to the audience. Don't leave the job to the event organizer, who might deliver something great; but then again might simply read out a list of your educational achievements and job history.

Open by describing the common ground you stand on with the audience. Do you share a heritage, a history or a commitment to a cause? If so, mention that link right up front. With a bit of effort you can turn a few well-chosen remarks into valuable goodwill at the beginning of your talk.

• Now that you’ve made a connection with the audience, illustrate your competence. Make mention of things you've done in a story or anecdote, for instance. Your listeners will find that approach far more interesting than a recitation of your accomplishments with no context to them. And chances are the audience will remember the information better too.

Sharpen your speechwriting in March by joining me for one or both of these workshops: Write Out Loud: Strategic Speechwriting Skills and Value Beyond Words: Advanced Speechwriting Skills.