Your audience is sizing you up, even before you step up to the microphone and say a single word. Never underestimate the importance of projecting confidence and professionalism out of the gate. Here are a few easy pointers to help you nail your first impression.
Who are you?
As you walk to the front of the room or center stage, what people notice first is your energy. What they see immediately after that is your clothing and accessories. Taken together, your energy and your “costume” create your first impression.
First, let’s talk about energy.
Energy is an expression of nonverbal thoughts and feelings. When we care deeply about something, we are energized. As you walk to the front of the room, your audience will pick up your that energy, but they won’t be able to tell exactly where it’s coming from.
Nervous energy is still energy.
As I tell my clients, nervous energy feels very much the same to an audience as excitement! Nervous feelings can animate a presentation when managed well. I would much rather work with someone who has nervous energy, than a client who shows little or no emotion.
A flat and detached persona is boring and says “I don’t want to be here, so neither should you.”
Energy is engaging.
Now let’s consider what you will wear, a/k/a your “costume.”
Does it really matter what you wear when you present?
The answer is yes.
It’s human nature to assume a link between how people look and how they work. On some level we know it isn’t smart to judge a book by its cover, and yet most of us do it anyway.
An audience can’t help themselves.
I wish image didn’t matter as much as it does. I want you to address your style to see what it says about you, because your image has a real impact on your ability to influence people.
If you are resisting the notion that image has a huge impact on perception, think about theatrical performance. We all know that a costume communicates a lot of information about character, even before that character speaks a single line.
Think of James Bond's tuxedo, Willy Wonka's purple jacket and top hat, Gordon Gekko's suspenders, and the sea of suffragette white we saw at the State of the Union. Clothing is a powerful visual representation of role, character and point of view.
Ask yourself these questions: Do I look the part? Do I look like a professional in the eye of the beholder? What does my clothing say about me?
Remember, if you look like a professional, you will feel like a professional and that will build your confidence. There is a connection between your "costume" and how you feel on the inside.
Match your energy, your clothes and accessories with the image you want to project, and you’ll nail that first impression every time!
[WO3]This is a great opportunity to talk about how energy and costume influence each other.