You know by the time you get your first sentence out, your audience has already decided what kind of person you are. For a lot of you, and for me, the first minute or two is the most difficult. Once you get going, a well-prepared presentation flows, but it’s getting started that’s challenging. So, the most difficult part of a presentation is the most critical part. How fair is that?
If you’re wanting to uplevel your presentation, a good place to start is with the introduction. Definitely it’s better to improve a presentation or public speaking skills step-by-step rather than overhauling everything at the same time.
This is what needs to happen during those first few minutes of your talk:
1. You capture the attention of the audience. (That means they stop talking and texting.)
2. You let them know what you’re going to talk about. That’s introducing the topic and your angle on it.
3. You tell them why they should give a flyin’ patootie. Tell them the specific benefits of your message.
4. Let them know why you’re qualified to speak on this topic. That does NOT mean you need to have a PhD in underwater yoga, but you must have something that ties you personally to your topic. Your obsession with something is certainly a possible source of credibility, as is your OTJ experience.
What makes this really interesting these days is that, in essence, everyone is living in overwhelm. Or on the edge of chaos. Too many options, not enough time.
The way to take care of all these concerns for YOUR talk, is totally up to you. But making your introduction more interesting is certainly a worthwhile investment of your time.
Here is a sampling of my trusted tools you can use to ramp up your introduction:
– Tell a story that weaves together the elements listed above: you, your topic, the benefits of your message, your credibility. The story doesn’t have to be literally true, but if you’re making it up, let the audience know.
– Show brief a clip from a movie that illustrates in some way these same points.
– Come up with an exercise for the audience to do; it can even be a hand-out or written. (Note: once you give them something in their hands, their focus shifts away from you and to the paper.)
This could also be a physical exercise – but you’ve got to give them a reason to do it.
– Wear a costume and use it in some way for your talk. For example, in a student presentation about hockey, the speaker wore the hockey uniform and used that to explain his relationship to the sport.
– You can always tell a joke, but relate it to your talk. Otherwise, you lose them as soon as you stop being funny.
– Pretend it’s Show and Tell day at school. Act accordingly.
Here’s what not to do: Start off with a text-filled, bullet point-laden Power Point!
Got any tips from your own presentations? Please share! And if you’re finding these articles helpful, I suggest you subscribe using the box in the upper right corner so you get these delivered to your email. I post on Mondays and Thursdays mostly.
The photo is from Lisa Call’s textile art.