The First Part of a Talk

by janetkayfetz

UCSB Senior Capstone 2013

UCSB Senior Capstone 2013

The very first moments of a talk deserve your consideration. These first seconds should be practiced and perfected so that you feel confident about how to introduce yourself and move into your presentation in a fluent and natural way — even though you may be fighting the nerves that most of us feel when we stand in front of an audience.

This first connection with the audience sets the tone for the rest of your talk. It is during these first seconds that you as the speaker create the spirit of the experience. It is for you to decide how you want to present yourself and your material. Are you friendly? serious? authoritative? brilliant? collegial? humorous? nervous? calm? and so on. The audience will pick up much of the emotional feeling you project about yourself and your content in the introductory part of your talk, so rehearse until you are able to present yourself in the way you would like to be perceived.

UCSB Senior Capstone 2013

UCSB Senior Capstone 2013

It is very important to look at your audience during your entire introductory remarks, no matter if this section lasts 10 seconds or 2 minutes. I cannot stress this point enough. Try to look at all parts of the room where you have listeners so that everyone benefits from your connection. I know — this is not easy, depending on the size and shape of the room and the number of people in the audience. But try to make it happen. Looking at your audience in an authentic way, especially at the very beginning of a talk, signals that you are comfortable with yourself and with them.

Hold your focus on the audience and not on your first slide. In fact, I recommend that you memorize the information on your first slide (title, collaborators, advisor, and so on) so that you do not have to look away from the audience and read from your slide. Break eye contact with your audience only after completing your initial remarks as a way of transitioning to the next section of your talk.

And finally, try to hold your hands still during the very first seconds of your talk (by keeping them naturally by your side, by holding them together in front of you, by leaning on the podium, or by using some other technique to keep them out of the picture), and then introduce your hand gestures more organically as you develop your story.

UCSB Senior Capstone 2013

UCSB Senior Capstone 2013

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