Section 1.1

Before You Speak

Consider the moments leading up to a typical presentation, when the speaker moves toward the front of the room and prepares to address the listeners. Let’s call this initial activity the approach.

Many presenters make no distinction between their approach and their opening words. They begin speaking before they have established their presence and before the audience is ready to listen — which generally makes for a weak beginning. For the strongest start, distinguish the approach from the talk itself.

The approach has several components, none of which has anything to do with words:

1. Getting where you need to go

Your destination may be a podium, or it may just be a spot in the room where you will be visible to your listeners. The objective here is simple: get there. You don’t need to rush to address your audience. You don’t even need to look at them as you are walking (although you may choose to do so). Focus simply on getting where you need to go, and do it with confidence.

2. Claiming your space

Once you have arrived at your spot, claim it. Set your feet a comfortable distance apart and distribute your weight evenly toward the balls of your feet. Stand upright, but keep your shoulders loose. Imagine that a string attached to your sternum is pulling you up toward the ceiling. Good posture conveys strength and confidence.

3. Connecting with your audience

Look at your listeners, make eye contact, and see whether they are ready to give you their attention. If they aren’t ready, wait until they are. In some cases, you may need to let them know it’s time to begin.

Only after you have completed these steps should you start your talk. If you begin speaking prematurely, the power of your initial words may be diminished.