I used to be very nervous about doing a presentation. For the wrong reason.
I was afraid that I’d get too much attention.
I used to worry that the audience would be watching my every move and hanging on my every word.
I used to worry that my clothing would be disheveled or that I’d say a lot of nervous “uh” and “um” sounds.
I used to worry that my facts were accurate, that my slides were numbered properly, and that I had all sorts of relevant but trivial details memorized.
Those things are important. But the problem is not that the audience will focus too much attention on you.
It’s that they won’t focus enough attention on you.
Which is why you need a strong opening. You need to reach out and grab as much attention as you possibly can.
That’s why strong openings are important.
If you can grab attention effectively at the beginning of your presentation, you will have a better chance of keeping it throughout the presentation.
A strong opening sets the tone…it says that you have come prepared and that you are fully engaged. It signals that you may be worth more than just polite curiosity. You might actually have something interesting to say.
Skip boring introductions and dive right in.
Open with a quote, then talk about how it applies to the theme of what you will cover.
Share a story about a customer, a partner, or yourself that resonates with some aspect of your presentation.
Raise a thought-provoking question, one that will be answered in your talk.
Open with a quote that highlights a key insight.
Use humor if the joke makes a point that’s relevant (not just to “warm up the room”).
Ask the audience a direct question or take a poll on an issue.
You have a lot of tools at your disposal. Select one that is appropriate for your presentation and figure out how to incorporate it in the opening of your talk.
Practice that opening, even if you don’t rehearse the rest of your talk. Repeat it, refine it, and get comfortable with it so that you can start off on a confident and compelling note.
For your next presentation, even if it’s just a small group discussion, a regular staff meeting, or even lunch with friends, try this technique out.
Think about what you’ll talk about and then come up with a strong opening. Work up an introduction that grabs some attention. Deliver it and see what sort of reaction you get. See how much attention and energy you attract and retain throughout your talk.