Opening your Presentation - Breaking away from Ready Salted crisps

There’s no bigger creature of habit than me.  I always eat ready salted crisps and I always have crunchy nut cornflakes for breakfast. The current Mrs Ode is no different, she always has Lasagne whenever we go out - I’ve even seen her try and order it in an Indian restaurant.

We are all like this in some way, ok, maybe not with the freaky lasagne fetish but we all have habits.  Sticking with the ‘norm’ is fine.  It feels safe and in many ways you are in your comfort zone.  However, from time to time you need to put on your hardhat and venture out of your safe, warm and toasty comfort zone so that you can experiment and try new things.

Our habits even find their way into how we deliver presentations, especially in the first few minutes when opening.  This, for many people is the worst part of the whole presenting experience.  A lot of presenters play safe and stick to the same way of opening that they have done for years.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional way of opening, for example:-

- Welcome and introduction
- Introduce presentation topic
- Introduce content

...And then bang, you start talking about the content; the meat of the presentation.

It’s safe and easy on the ear for the audience.  But does it capture the audience’s imagination from the start?  Let’s take a look at a few ways in which you may decide to vary your opening.  WARNING – Hardhat on, you are about to leave your comfort zone…   

The Big ‘Ask’
Once you have introduced yourself why not ask the audience a question?

For example -  “Before I start my presentation this morning I would like to ask you all a question…”

Trust me, their ears will prick up immediately and you’ve got the audience in the palm of your hand right from the start.  Use this technique 2 or 3 times throughout your presentation.  The audience will be so scared of missing the question that they will keep listening intently.  If you have a large group then you may want to ask for a show of hands, as big groups generally don’t like shouting out answers.

Shock tactic
Once you have introduced yourself why not throw in a provocative statistic, statement or fact.  If you are using this technique just make sure that your information will surprise or shock them.

For example -  “Before I start my presentation this morning I would like to share this fact with you…”

As with the Question Technique, you will have the audience listening intently right from the start

Wrap up your presentation by using this fact again as part of your summary This is called the ‘bookend technique’ and is a cracking way of bringing it all together.

Be brave and give one, or both of these ago and let me know how you get on.

Right, I’m feeling a touch peckish – I'm off for a bag of ready salted and a bowl of crunchy nutters.

www.potentialunearthed.co.uk 

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Tags: presentations, presenting, public, speaking

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Comment by Rob Cummerson on May 15, 2013 at 11:20

Interesting blog article and very true indeed. I always find that you have to keep the meat of the presentation light and simple as to not lose audience focus "more diagram & processes than text". A good technique is to factor a change of presentation medium during the presentation from powerpoint to flipchart which allows you to explain a concept or process, this engages the audience and allows you to bring them into the presentation as it opens the door for discussion

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