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About a month ago I was in a situation where I had 45 minutes to present our proposal for a complex 6 million dollar project. Have you ever found yourself in a high stakes presentation with a short time to deliver your message?

In situations like this you need to engage the audience quickly. We have likely all done traditional openings, “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, my name is Joe. I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to …” You know how the rest goes. The last thing you want to do is bore the audience at this key moment!!

There is some debate among presentation experts as to whether you need to grab the audience’s attention at the opening of the presentation, or if you already have their attention. Studies have shown that you have their attention for a minute or two at the beginning.  When I present I try to intrigue the audience with my opening, hoping that they think “That’s interesting, where he is going with this?”

The experts describe a variety of ways to open a presentation; the most common methods include using a quotation, stating an interesting statistic, or telling a story/anecdote (telling a story is most often recommended).  I like to use stories for my openings but finding the right one that links to your message can be difficult. And then there’s the challenge of keeping it concise AND interesting.

Listening to other presenter’s openings helps me sort out those challenges. The CBC radio program The Age of Persuasion (available as a podcast) has some of the best openings I have ever heard (www.cbc.ca/ageofpersuasion/ ).  Listen especially for the great transition between the opening story and the main message of the program.  At the start of each program I ask myself, that’s interesting, where are they going with this?

Joe Pops

Refuse to be boring

5 Replies to “Grand Openings”

  1. Stories as opening can be less effective when the speaker goes on about it for 10-15 minutes. Any strong opening needs to capitalize on the 1-2 minutes attention and MOVE ON to the core of the subject.
    You have also mentioned about the podcast having a great LINK to the subject. This is the second critical thing I have found that presenters forget. They start with a great opening and then have no idea how it links to rest of their presentation!
    When presenters learn how to do these 2 things, presentations will be less boring 🙂
    Hope you landed the large project you were presenting on!

  2. Thanks Arte – I like to use the guideline I posted in a previous blog, 3-30-30. I think your openning shouldn’t go over 3 minutes, and you need a good transition from openning to content.
    JP

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