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Do you take the stage in your business presentations with intensity, intentionality, and energy—an inspired speaker ready to wow your audience? Or is the transition from your introducer to you more like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace—methodical, mediocre, and mundane?

Just as in watching the opening scene of a movie, if your entrance doesn’t have your audience at the edge of their seats with their eyes open wide, and instead, has them checking their phones or belting out a yawn, you’re likely to be unheard, unremarkable, and ineffective.

You don’t get second chances at first impressions, so follow these tips on how to maximize one of the most crucial parts of your presentation—taking the stage—and put more art into the start of your message.

Remember you’re “on stage” before you’re on the stage.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, and though it may seem arbitrary or even unfair, there are a gamut of impressions you can make long before you deliver the first few words of your presentation that can impact how your audience “sees” you and how you’ll be initially received by them. In fact, by the time you’ve started your opening remarks, some people may have already made distinct observations and even character judgments about you.

Before the proceedings began did your audience see you warmly and cheerfully meeting and greeting others? Were you noticed sitting at your table fiddling with your notes and aloof from those around you before you spoke? Were you seated center stage at a table in view of everyone, or were you mysteriously hiding out back stage are sitting anonymously off to the side? All these factors could have had an impact on how your audience initially perceived you.

There are many things you can’t control: the seating arrangement, the order of speakers, your familiarity with the audience. But you can control all your thoughts and actions once you reach your presentation site. Remember: all eyes could be on you at any time, noticing everything. Small talk, incidental mannerisms, and seemingly insignificant exchanges can add up to big impressions from onlookers.

Don’t just endure your introduction, enjoy it.

Depending on the person delivering your introduction, the nature of the occasion, or the topic of your presentation, the amount of time and attention paid to this seemingly routine task could range from the obligatory couple of lines to a full-blown production. Speakers typically see introductions as simply a necessary part of the process. No big deal.

Your introducer may present a laundry list of your credentials and accomplishments. Or he may have a personal anecdote. Maybe she’s inserted humor or a serious note pertaining to your topic in her introductory remarks about you. Be attentive and gracious as you patiently wait for your turn to speak.

And while you’re being introduced, avoid the eyes of your audience and simply acknowledge the person introducing you. You can even smile. Your first eye contact with the audience should be when you stand up and face them. This will help you avoid nervous looks, blank stares, and uncomfortable smiles. And though there should be no unexpected revelations in your intro, remain humble, patient, interested, and upbeat. Enjoy it.

Consider your steps.

It may seem like a trivial point, but how you physically approach the stage and/or walk across it can make an impression on your audience. Do you explode on the scene, racing to get to the podium, appearing overly anxious and even nervous? Do you take your time and saunter along, reviewing your notes, seemingly unemotional, unexcited, or reluctant? Your audience will notice.

Of course, there are as many walking styles are there are people who employ them, and your objective is not to adopt some sort of professional speaker stroll—there isn’t such a thing. Your primary focus is to remain professional, decisive, and pleasant. A steady, solid walk with a kind, confident smile is the way to go.

Many professional speakers even practice their approach to the stage. Seem a bit much? Ask any bride who’s walked down the aisle and you’ll learn that a little practice for an important occasion will ensure you make the impression you want and that you put your best foot forward.

There’s more to taking the stage in your business presentation than you thought, isn’t there? Read part two of this blog series and find out more about how to do it with style and substance.

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