How many times have you watched a political debate or a newsworthy interview and been quickly impressed with someone based on how they handled the first question that came their way?
Or, can you think of a time when the first words out of someone’s mouth immediately turned you off?
In my line of work, we spend a lot of time preparing people for media interviews or appearances on panels in front of audiences. It’s not about being scripted, but it is about being prepared.
Anticipation is the most important word I could share when thinking about your next opportunity in front of an audience.
Imagine you’re on a four-person “expert” panel at a conference where you’re asked to share ideas and experiences in your field of expertise.
- What would the audience think if your first comments were bland and uninteresting?
- What would the audience think if your first answer didn’t sound or feel authoritative?
- What would the audience think if you seemed unprepared or caught off guard?
Nobody wants to come across as unprepared. That’s the worst thing that could come from an opportunity like this.
But here’s what’s critical.
Your first response often shapes the audience’s image of you for the rest of the interview or speaking opportunity. Come out of the gate with an unimpressive answer delivered with low energy and passion and it drastically affects your credibility with the audience for the remainder of your appearance. And, guess what, the rest of the panel just became FAR MORE credible because of your ill-prepared or ill-advised response.
Conversely, if you open with a bang and deliver a first answer that’s well thought out, well-prepared — and delivered with passion and conviction — you’ve immediately stated your case as deserving of the stage and the spotlight.
So, it doesn’t matter if it’s an interview, a moderated panel or a Q&A format. Make sure you remember the importance of a first impression and quickly deliver something that sticks!