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Imagine this – you are all set. The audience is settled and silent. You switch on the screen and stare at the projector for a split second. There, in that split second, you panic.
You know your subject inside-out. You’ve got the body of the presentation under control. But you’re tongue-tied about how to start.
As far as your audience is concerned, the opening is the most important. It takes about 30 to 60 seconds for them to decide whether or not you’re worth listening to.
If done right, a good opening grabs your listener’s attention and sets the tone for the rest of your presentation.
Whether you love speaking in public or get goosebumps on stage, developing good presentation skills is a must at some point of your business.
When presenting to potential clients, you are more likely to get them to a “yes” if you employ the right presentation techniques.
Usually, when the lights go dim, so do the brains of your audience. They’ve probably been bored at earlier presentations, and associate yours with “yet another boring one”. Some might be yawning by the time you bring up your first slide.
Here are five powerful ways to avoid that.
1. Start with a story
A great opening will intrigue your audience, and they will be hooked right away. Personal stories do this very well, because don’t we all love them?
If all you talk about is stats and figures, apart from being extremely boring, you will also fail to bring your listeners on the same page. By weaving in a story, you’re increasing their retention by 26%.
After all, our brains are wired for stories.
Stories contain analogies and metaphors your audience can relate with. By opening with a story, you’re really sharing a piece of you with them, which lets them identify with you on a personal level. They may forget the facts you shared, but they will never forget a relevant story you told.
Make sure your story is brief and has a message that further supports your POV.
So the next time you’re up for a presentation, rather than dumping facts, share a story first.
2. Quote someone famous
A quote brings you instant credibility. And it’s super-simple. Just pick a quote relevant to your speech and establish a theme for what’s coming.
But don’t just stop there – add a twist to it to arouse interest. Most people would start with a quote and leave it at that. You can contradict a quote and give it your own spin.
For example, you can start with, “We’ve all heard that out of sight is out of mind, but I like to believe that absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Or, “You’ve been told the best things in life are for free, but you also get what you pay for.”
Start with an interesting, compelling fact. It could be something catchy, amazing or startling. For a health-awareness presentation, you could open with “Each year, 4.6 million people die of air pollution”. Or, “Did you know that more people die of air pollution than automobile accidents in the world?”
That’s startling enough to hold their attention as you open your speech.
4. Ask a “what-if” question
People love to imagine, and you naturally want them to imagine a positive outcome at the start of your speech.
This can be easily done when you ask them a what-if question. For example, an anxiety-coping presentation could open with, “What if you were without fear?” As you take them on a journey of what-ifs, they associate your speech (product/service) with those positive outcomes.
Holding their attention and making your point becomes much easier with a what-if question.
5. Quote a movie
Movies are a part and parcel of every culture. Most people love movies and identify with them, especially all-time favorites like The Godfather.
Movie quotes can lighten up the mood, arouse their attention and break the ice as you open your talk. They can also teach you a lot about business.
One of my favorite is “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains,” from the 1988 movie Bull Durham.
For more inspiration, check out this post for business wisdom hidden in classic movie quotes.
The methods above are merely suggestions and come to life only when you use them. Everything depends on delivery. When done right, you can engage, entertain and lead your audience.
Whatever you do, remember there is always the first time. So go out, experiment what works and what doesn’t. Then rinse and repeat!