Creating a good first impression starts early

Source Flickr; Author Neovain

Your presentation is on day 2 of the conference, afternoon session. You follow the recommendations made in the posts in this blog, and you give a beaming smile to the audience right before the start of your presentation. Yet you notice that few return the smile, even though, in theory at least, the participants’ mirroring neurons should be firing by now and trigger the pulling of the zygomaticus muscles to lift up mouth corners everywhere in the room. You followed the instructions by the book, and it did not work!!! What went wrong?

Let’s retrace your steps together and examine what happened BEFORE your presentation – all the way back to the beginning of the conference. Did you notice that person lining up for coffee in the hotel foyer during the afternoon break ? You will see her again. She is interested in the same topics as you, and she is not the only one. She looked at you when she saw you again the morning of the second day sitting a few rows up in the same meeting room. You had not even paid attention. To you, she was a total stranger. Yet, the day of your presentation, you pretend to be Mr. Nice and are all smiles. She sees you as a fake.

Do you remember that difficult question you asked in an earlier session, and the way you asked it – without complimenting the speaker, and without the trace of a smile on your face? People in the audience, many of whom will be attending your talk, are watching you. They didn’t see Mr. Nice; they saw the person who has an ax to grind, one chip on each shoulder, or Mr. KnowItAll. When they attend your talk, they discard your smile because their first impression of you is already set, and it’s not a good one.

Do you remember napping during an earlier presentation, or working on your emails ? Granted, it was not a stellar one which gets presentation awards, but  the presenter did notice, and he is attending your talk. He is not returning your smile. It would have been better for you not to attend his talk at all.

There are many opportunities to sully your image prior to your talk. First impressions are created early – hours before your presentation starts – as soon as you become visible to the group of people who will attend your talk. And first impressions lasts. Be friendly. Be attentive. Look around you and take note of the people whose face is becoming familiar. Approach them and chit chat. Show your social side. When your turn to present comes, your smile will most certainly trigger theirs. Their first impression of you is already formed – and it is a good one!

By Jean-luc lebrun

Author: Jean-Luc Lebrun

This century: Writer on Scientific writing skills and scientific presentation skills, MC for scientific events, Podcaster, Radio Consultant, Trainer for Research Institutes in Engineering and Life Sciences, Singapore, and in European doctoral schools, as well as in South East Asia Universities. Last Century: Apple Computer, Advanced Technology Group, Technology Information manager. Then Director of the Apple-ISS Research Centre - a joint venture between Apple Computer and the National University of Singapore. Producer of TV program on IT for Singapore Channel 5.

2 thoughts on “Creating a good first impression starts early”

    1. Thank you Sarah. Just like climbing mountains, when you think you have conquered scientific presentations, a new challenge comes in sight, a new summit to conquer 🙂 These blogs are glimpses on what I see on my way up the skills slope.

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