You're sitting on your sofa watching TV, remote control in hand, looking for someone who will captivate you. How many seconds do you give each candidate before you zap them away? If you're like most people, two to five seconds.
It's the same when you give a presentation, whether to one person, to a small group, or before a large audience. Within seconds your audience makes decisions about your credibility, trustworthiness, attractiveness, and social standing.
Instead of making a bad impression and having to claw your way into position, start off on the right foot.
Dress the way they expect you to dress. What is the dress code of your audience? Dress that way, plus one notch above, to show that this event is important to you.
Your presentation starts the minute you arrive. From that moment on, you need to convey that you're eager, purposeful, and confident. People will observe you long before it's your turn to speak, and even after you've stopped speaking.
Match your audience's energy. Each group has its own energy -- apathetic, mildly interested, eager. Notice and accept where they are. You'll create a bond that will allow you to move people toward your intended result.
If you are with an apathetic group, pose a few rhetorical questions, and watch for their ears to perk up. Then move to some hands-up questions. This will give you what you want -- an involved audience.