Mindful ways to start a presentation


There are a number of mindful ways to start a presentation,

‘Research from Princeton and the University of Glasgow suggests that we judge a stranger in just half a second.

As harsh as that may sound, there is clearly something in it

Researcher Dr Phil McAlee ,suggests that our ability to make rapid judgments about people may be part of an ancient survival mechanism.

Whether it’s half a second, or even sixty seconds, I think you’d  agree that most of us are too quick to judge people.

Many of us aren’t even conscious about it

Remember the scene from the Jerry Maguire movie, where Renee Zellweger says to Tom Cruise, ‘You had me at hello’?

Imagine presenting to a room full of strangers for the very first time.

Wouldn’t it be great if they all felt like Renee Zellweger?

Unfortunately, Jerry Maguire is Hollywood.

In the real world, most of us have to work considerably harder.

It is human nature for us all to want to look good and to make a positive first impression.  It helps being very mindful about what it takes to manipulate the areas of the brain which help us to compute our first impressions of others.

According to Psychology Today , these are the amygdala and posterior cingulate cortex.

Here are some powerfully, mindful ways to start a presentation

Put on your halo 

Psychologists believe that people who communicate in an expressive, animated fashion tend to be liked more than people who seem difficult to read.

They call it the Expressivity Halo

It’s a belief that that we feel more at ease with people who are easy to read.

To don your halo means you have to learn to be relaxed, open and as warm and friendly as you can.

Good, sincere eye contact, use of gestures and purposeful movement will all serve you well.

Don’t forget to smile

Research suggests that smiling activates the release of neuropeptides such as dopamine, endorphins and serotonin into the body.

This not only relaxes you but can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

Research also suggests that when you smile at someone else, they smile and you cause physiological changes within their bodies too.

Be just like them 

Remember the last time you met with someone for the very first time and within moments realised that they like the same things as you?

Maybe you had bothbeen through a similar experience.

Perhaps you liked the same food, book, or just both knew the same person.

Do you recall how that somehow created the sense of an instant bond between you?

We have all been there

It’s called the ‘similarity attraction hypothesis’.

Even  finding out that you share the same name as someone could mean you take a shine to them.

As presenters this provides an invaluable insight and opportunity to make a positive first impression on our audience.

We can make every effort to find out what we have in common with them.

That allows us to start a presentation by putting ourselves in their shoes

Remember the old saying, ‘birds of a feather flock together’.

Show them your feathers the moment you start a presentation.

Own the stage 

For your audience to have confidence in you they need to see and feel that you have confidence in yourself from the very start.

You will start a presentation before you say a word.

Calmly and confidently walk to the front of the stage or conference room, your body filled with poise and purpose.

As you reach the place you will begin to speak from, stand grounded and centred with the weight of both feet planted firmly on the floor.

At this point most speakers begin to speak before they have even completely stood still.

Resist this temptation

Look at your audience first, pause, take in a breath and smile.

If you have a flip chart show them that you own it.

Touch it or even move it to a place that suits you (even if it’s just a couple of inches to one side).

If you have a table or desk with materials on it feel free to take a moment to adjust them.

If you are using a monitor or projector screen don’t be afraid to touch and own that too.

Move with purpose and meaning.

Make good eye contact, even with people at the back of the room.

Make your impact

Tell them a story 

When I’m running leadership seminars and I want to talk about the need for change in leadership style I begin with a story.

30 years ago, my brother and I were queueing for a ride at Disney and noticed a man in front of us with a small suitcase. We laughed about how he would never be able to get something so big on the ride. Wondering why on earth he was taking it on in the first place we soon realised it wasn’t a suitcase at all.

It was a mobile phone!

That’s how they made mobile phones 30 years ago; there was nothing mobile or portable about them at all.’

Then I pull my iPhone out of my pocket.

We open a discussion start about how the world has changed over the last 30 years.

What could happen over the next 30 from a leadership perspective?

Share a powerful quote 

It doesn’t have to be a famous one.

When I find myself speaking about vision, I often open with a quote an old boss of mine.

When I first stepped onto the management ladder many moons ago, he said:

“The only people who need to be motivated are the people who can’t see a future” 

I then go on to explain the impact it had (another story) and its relevance to my presentation.

Use a prop 

Asking for significant sums of money to acquire a rather expensive piece of new software I decided to start a presentation differently.

I wheeled in hundredsof paper copies of customer complaint letters into the meeting room on catering trollies.

That was the reason we needed the new software,

It certainly got my audienc’s attention.

Shock them 

I once opened a conferences saying,

“This business is hemorrhaging 200,000 sales a year to our competitors. In 5 years none of us will be here, we won’t have a business

It was a harsh way to start a presentation but I got my audience’s full attention.

‘You only get one chance to make a first impression’

It’s critically important to consider this before you start a presentation.

Those first few moments will not only influence whether your audience take a liking to you, but whether they make the effort to listen to what else you have to say.

Wouldn’t it be great if we get them all at ‘hello’?

If you’d like to learn how to start a presentation with impact:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

Image courtesy of: Flickr.com

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