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How to ace that first impression?

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“They” say:  you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  Think about how you evaluate others based on their presence, confidence and sense of competence.  Don’t forget they’re evaluating you using the same criteria!

So…how do you make your own first impression both positive and lasting?  Cara Hale Alter has written “The Credibility Code” which gives really practical tips on how to be more visible and credible.

She present 3 pillars that she believes project credibility:  posture, voice and eye contact.

  1. Strong posture means:  keeping your spine tall (no slouching);  standing with your weight equally balanced on both feet (flats may be easier than heels);  keeping your head level (no tilting);  pointing your nose directly at the listeners (as opposed to your chin) and commanding the space around you (the whole room rather than one specific point).  The biggest challenges are:  acting too casually (you sound less in control), using too many gestures (it’s distracting) and moving too much (it’s tiring). 
  2. Strong  voice means:  speaking with optimal volume and resonance;  articulating clearly;  keeping the pace relaxed and using expression to highlight key points.  The biggest challenges are  not speaking from your diaphragm and using too many “ums” or slang words.
  3. Strong eye contact means:  maintaining eye contact with everyone regardless of their title or interest in your presentation.  The biggest challenge may be  cultural as making and holding eye contact is not encouraged in some cultures. 

In addition to this book, there are voice coaches (e.g. the Stratford Shakespearian Festival offers a weekend program),  public speaking programs (e.g. Toastmasters) and confidence programs (e.g. Dale Carnegie) which can be helpful. 

I know, having worked with Jane Gooderham at Stratford this summer, that it is possible to build a presence, feel more confident (it’s 90% prep, 10% delivery) and find the right balance between authority and approachability.  I may not love speaking in public (yet) but it’s no longer up there with childbirth plus a root canal on my pain spectrum!