Why do I emphasise the Opening of your presentation? Because it’s a crucial moment in how you are perceived. People decide what they think of you within 7 seconds. That first impression sets the scene. Your audience is deciding whether they like you or not. Their decision is emotional, not rational. If they like you, they’ll engage with what you are saying. If they don’t, they won’t.
- Capture their attention. It could be with a story, a current news report, a quotation or a thought arresting remark. Alert them to focus their attention.
- Earn The Right. You need to be clear about what qualifies you and your organisation to speak to them. How about showing what other people/organisations think of you – I mean testimonials. They are profoundly influential in guiding your audience to respect what you say.
- Show Empathy. Describe your audience’s problem/pain/need/situation (that you have a solution for). They need to feel you understand them.
- Set Out Your Agenda. Here is where you lead them. To use the analogy, you are announcing your destination and the route you are taking. They will be reassured you know what you’re doing and therefore feel safe. They are also being given the outline that you will repeat later to reinforce your message. And please, not headings or bullet points, just use statements instead.
- Ground Rules. Explain when you want them to ask questions (throughout the presentation? At the end of each section or at the end?) and direct what you want them to do. This is another way of helping them feel safe and certain. Why? If they know what’s expected, they will be more disciplined and will be happy to concentrate on what you say.
- Set Your Expectations. Don’t be shy about telling them how you want them to react, to think, feel and what actions you want them to take afterwards. They may not be convinced yet though they’ll remember what you want.
As I have said before, your Opening and your Close will be the most memorable moments of your presentation. The middle section is likely to be forgotten within 48 hours except as validation of your authority and expertise. Proof, in other words! So make sure this Opening stands out. It’s your best opportunity to gain audience engagement.
Good luck……and have fun!