So you’re standing there at the front of the room, you’ve checked that all of the equipment works, and you’re ready to present. How do you start?
People attending presentations fall into three type; prisoners, vacationers and learners. If you’re going to engage all three you need to be interesting and enthusiastic. It would be a really wierd type of person who would enjoy sitting though a long boring presentation. If you don’t engage them right up front, you can lose them.
In a “normal” presentation you’d say something like:
“Good Morning. Thank you all for coming. My name is Tom Smith, National Marketing Manager for ACME widgets and it’s a great pleasure to be able to present my company to you today.”
That’s the same old stuff you hear everywhere and is about as rivetting as rearranging your underwear drawer. You can anticipate what’s coming next. He’s going to show you a picture of a building and carpark, a map of the world, a chronology of the company development, every product they’ve ever made, and a slide with the logos of all of the customers they’ve ever dealt with. Not powerful, not pointy. If you’re really lucky, they’ll show you three slides of their mission, vision and values. Yes, give me more!
Personally I feel insulted when I’m on the receiving end of this sort of presentation. Most times it’s obvious is that this is the vanilla introduction that everyone gets and that there’s been no attempt to customise it for me.
Plus the every slide has the company logos, name and strapline – gimme a break! Show me a couple of times and I won’t forget. I promise.
If you look at the diagram, whch you can download as a pdf here the suggestion is that you use a compelling introduction to engage your audience.
There’s myriad ways you can achievet his and I’m sure this list isn’t exhaustive and not all are appropriate for every occasion.
Make a Powerful Statement
Make a statement that shows you’re not afraid to challenge the status quo.
“World poverty is continuing to escalate and most of you in this room are either unaware or unconcerned. (Pause for five seconds – make eye contact) My name’s Mary Smith and today you’ll see how even the smallest contribution can help.”
“Diamonds are not rare, diamonds have no resale value, ‘diamonds are forever’ is 70 year old successful marketing slogan. (Pause for five seconds – make eye contact) I’m Steve Brown and today you’ll se how marketing persuades you to buy products with no intrinsic value”.
Ask a Provocative Question
Or a series of questions.
“Did you know that twenty people were killed in aircraft crashes this year?
Did you know that over 1500 people were killed on the roads?
Why did every aircraft crash feature on the TV news, and only one percent of the road deaths?
By the end of this presentation you’ll understand how the media causes these anomalies.”
A friend of mine once wanted the local residents to understand the implications of new regulations, so when he started his presentation he stood on a chair. He said, “The reason I’m standing on this chair is so that you won’t forget what I’m about to say.” They didn’t either, for another reason as well. He happened to be holding a long pointer, and when he stood on the chair it poked a hole in the ceiling. D’oh.
If you’re presenting a solution that it going to save people money, start out by ripping up some realistic pretend bank notes, or putting them through a shredder.
“This is a hundred dollars (rip), this is another hundred dollars (rip). Every ten seconds that you go by without implementing our system, this is what it is costing you.”
Show Them Something Interesting
It could be a short video, your latest iGadget development, a scale model, anything that you can get enthusiastic about and draw them into your emotion.
Tell Them a Story
Stories are powerful. Radio presenters use the “theatre of the mind” to draw you in. When you tell a story, people begin to put themselves into it, they begin to visualise and become interested in the outcome.
Stories though, should ideally come from your personal experience, or be something that the group wouldn’t necessarily know. Be wary of telling jokes – they’re rarely new and it’s amazing what people can take offence to. If you use humour, use something funny that happened to you.
If you’re looking for quirky stories, Ananova is a good place to start.
Use Interesting Statistics
Have fun with numbers
As of last night world production included:
“39 million cars
73 million bicycles,and
194 million computers sold
What does that tell you?”
Use Interesting Facts
CHILLI could one day replace aspirin for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to University of Tasmania scientists who are looking at the way the spicy fruit affects the blood. From the Courier Mail, 3 Sep 2009.
There are any number of ways to make your opening hot and pointy, the above are just a few suggestions.