You have 3 minutes to grab them. Maybe less. That’s how long it takes for your audience to decide whether you are worth listening to your not. Don’t waste these critical few minutes of your presentation with idle chatter. The first word out of your mouth counts in a formal presentation.
Start your presentation strong
A motivated presenter will very deliberately think about and select a powerful opening and closing for the presentation. This is your first and last impression that you will make with your audience.
Here are four key principles to openings your next presentation with more power & impact:
- Take them to the Promised Land
- Avoid palaver
- Put the good stuff upfront in the presentation
- Your energy will make all the difference
Because your opening and closing are so important to your outcome, it’s critical that you spend time scripting, practicing, and rehearsing these sections of your presentation. Never wing it. Plan it. Commit to memory. Time it. Walk it through. Practice it until you have it near perfect. Execute it brilliantly.
But first, you must choose a strategy about how you will open your presentation.
Ideas and techniques to OPEN your next presentation
- Tell a Personal Story. Get personal. Launch immediately into your personal story. Assume a casual, friendly stance to make it feel like it’s just you and one other. Remember to shape your story to include only the important details, to make a clear point and to connect it to what’s going on in the presentation right now.
- Paint the Picture. Start with “I wish you could have been there….” And then give compelling visual account of the event where the lesson was learned. Tease the audience using rich descriptive language. Re-create the event as if it was happening now.
- Imagine… Starting your presentation with a question that beings with the word “Imagine…” is a powerful way to instantly hook your audience. This visual word will immediately trigger an unconscious connection with your audience. You will have effectively engaged their imagination, their curiosity and created a potential picture in their mind’s eye.
- Use Levity and Humor. Get your audience to laugh by showing them an amusing visual or by sharing a funny personal story. You don’t have to be a good “joke teller.” Tell about something real and human. Something people can relate to. Laughter creates energy.
- Be Direct. Tell them what you are going to tell them. Example: Today you will learn everything you need to know about XYW and we’ll do it in fewer than sixty minutes.
- H.M.O.Y. Start with questions that get people immediately involved by raising their hands. A series of three H.M.O.Y. questions is a fun and easy way to start your presentation. Here’s how it might work…
Let me begin by asking you a few questions…
How many of you came here today to learn more about the state of our business and our changing relationship with customer ________? [Raise your own hand high…and pause.]
How many of you came here today to find out if and how this situation might impact you and your specific line of business? [Again, raise your own hand high as an example of what you want them to do…and then pause.]
How many saw a bunch of your colleagues going somewhere and followed along because you thought there must be free food involved? [Raise hand, pause and allow for the laughter.]
Well my name is _____________ and today I’m going to share with you_________
- Inspiring Quotes that offer words of wisdom can connect the audience emotionally with you and your key message. Keep a log of great quotes that you come across and might be able to use in the future. Make sure you memorize and practice saying the quote out loud without notes. Eloquent delivery of the quotation is very important.
- Address the W.I.I.F.M. Ask a question that directly addresses the “What’s in it for me?” Create some drama and suspense about the answer to that question.
- Example: Many of you are wondering why you are here. Is this the day that the company will announce good news that will benefit you? Or is this a day when you will hear something that you don’t want to hear? What’s at stake for you here today?
- Make a Dramatic Statement. Share powerful statistics. For example (for illustrative purposes only; not factual data):
True or False: every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with heart disease.
True or False: every three hours a woman is subjected to domestic violence for the first time.
True or False: every hour a woman is paid less than her male counterpart of equal skill.
Today we are going to address the underlying problems concerning the health, safety, and equal opportunity of women in our community. With your help today, we are going to change the answers to these questions.
- Name Drop. Recognize the people in the audience by name during your introductory statements.
- For example:
We are here today to address important concerns like those of Joy Campbell who has to do extensive work to get her critical tasks completed. And the challenges faced by Bob Pritchet who despite being ahead of schedule and under budget, cannot get the resources needed to complete his project. And the frustrations felt by our sales guru, John Deerfield, who must face our largest client every day with news of in completion and delays. We are here today to discuss new ideas and solutions to resolve these problems.
- Self-selection enticement. Create statements that intrigue your audience to aspire and self-select.
- For example:
Today, three of you will make fundamental shifts in your career success. Three of you will leave this presentation today with the insights, skills, and determination to dramatically improve your future prospects now. The rest of you will listen politely, but commit to no changes and, as a result, experience no benefits. The question is which three of you will it be?
- Tell a Heroic Story. Find a moving story of an ordinary person who has done extraordinary things. Extrapolate the lesson/morale of the hero’s story to the key message of your presentation.
- Be Still and Quiet. Start your presentation in purposeful silence. Like an actor on a stage, let the audience take you in. Breathe. Observe your audience. Move with slow intent. Begin after you have their undivided attention.
- Make Heads Bobble. Do you want to persuade with your opening comments? Start with a statement you know your audience agrees with. Link it to another idea that gets heads bobbling. And another. Now that your audience is in an affirming state of mind, drop your key message on them. This concept was provided by copywriter extraordinaire, Chris Amorosino.
All kids need to play. Right? (Heads bobble here.)
Kids play to grow, to learn and to thrive. Right? (again, a nod.)
Most parents and teachers know that play time stimulates kids’ imagination and builds their self-esteem. Right? (more bobbling.)
And our new _____ gives kids the quality productive play experience that they need every day. Right!(Your turn to bobble in agreement.)
What are you waiting for? Select one of these ideas and craft your presentation opening. don’t forget to practice it until it feels natural to do and say.
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