How to Capture Your Audience’s Attention with Your Presentation Opening
“A wise man speaks because he has something to say, a fool speaks because he has to say something.” – Plato
In the first 30 seconds of meeting you, your audience has formed their first impression of you. This first impression will be the basis for determine whether your presentation was successful or not. The opening of your presentation forms this first impression
This article will discuss the benefits of a great opening, how your opening sets the tone of how your audience will feel about your presentation, and, finally, we will look at the different forms of your presentation opening.
What are the Benefits of a Great Opening?
Dorothy Leeds in her seminal book on public speaking, “PowerSpeak,” tells us “Powerful speakers start powerfully. You must gain the audience’s attention and interest the moment you walk on stage. Without that attention, you won’t get your message across, you’ll have trouble sustaining whatever interest there is, and you won’t have established your leadership and control – the keys to being a powerful speaker.”
Wow! Are those powerful words? So, gaining the audience’s attention is key. Without it, you will be “playing catchup” throughout your presentation.
You want to grab the audience’s attention because it will determine the connection you have with the audience. You want to have the total undivided attention of your audience. It starts with your presentation opening.
Another benefit of a great opening in your presentations is it puts you and your audience at ease. Why is it important that your audience is at ease? Audiences at ease are more attentive and more willing to accept your main points. You can better influence them with a great opening. At ease audiences smile more. This has the added benefit of motivating you as a speaker.
It may be obvious, but if you are at ease, you will be more enthusiastic, present a better presentation and have more fun doing it. Having fun actually opens up yours and your audience’s minds which will again cause you to have a better presentation.
So, I think you can see why it is important for you to have a great presentation opening. Your presentation opening also sets the tone for how your audience will feel
How Your Opening Sets the Tone of How Your Audience will Feel about Your Presentation
When you present in front of your audience, you are taking them on a journey; a journey in their mind using your main points as mileposts along the way.
Through your opening, you have the power to set the tone for how you want the audience to feel during and after your presentation. Do you want your audience to feel sad, mad, glad, or scared, etc.? You have the power in your opening to do this.
If you want them to feel sad, tell them a story of a child stricken with leukemia who fights a valiant battle, loses the fight at age ten, but teaches us all about the will to live and what is really important in life
If you want them to feel mad, tell them the statistics of illegal drug use in this country. Tell them how it is spreading in our schools to lower and lower grades each year. Tell them about the local and national laws that actually restrict our ability to fight this scourge.
If you want them to feel glad, talk to them about all the blessings we have in life. Tell them about the beauty of children and how we can all learn from them. Tell them about how you won your fight with pancreatic cancer.
If you want them to be scared, tell them about the scourge of child sexual abuse. Tell them how predators can be anyone. Tell them how the man in a trench coat in a myth. But also tell them there are definite and active ways to reduce the incidence of child sexual abuse.
My point in giving you these examples is to show you how you can engender certain feelings in your audience. You have the power to do this. Use it.
So, we have seen why it is important for you to have a great presentation opening and how your opening sets the tone of how your audience will feel about your presentation.
Now we will review the basic forms of the presentation opening.
What are the Basic Forms of the Presentation Opening?
Although not an exhaustive list, the following opening forms are the basic forms of the presentation opening. They have been time tested to grab an audience’s attention.
Stories – Everyone loves a good story. I wrote about this two articles ago. Before there were iPhones, Snapchat, television, newspapers, radio, there were stories. I am sure you have seen prehistoric etchings on the walls of caves. Those etchings tell a story and enthralled the audience at the time
Quotes – Quotes are powerful because they make us take a mental break and think. My favorite quotes are those from world leaders throughout the ages – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, to name a few. Don’t know any famous relevant quotes? Google the word “quotes” and the subject of the quotes and you will get more quotes than you can possibly use.
Statistics – Statistics can immediately change how people think about things. For instance, most people think suicide rates actually skyrocket around Christmastime. In reality, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) actually reports that suicide rates are actually lowest in December. The suicide rate actually peaks in the Spring, not the Winter. Statistics are powerful. Make sure they are relevant to your presentation.
Humor – Earl Nightingale said, “The only requirement for a speaker is to be interesting.” Laughing actually opens yours and your audience’s minds because when we laugh, we will be open to more ideas from others. The author Norman Cousins actually helped cure himself of a terrible sickness by watching videotapes of comedian teams like The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and Abbott and Costello.
Rhetorical Questions – Rhetorical questions, of course, are questions not meant to be answered by your audience. They are questions that provoke thought such as “Have you ever thought about how your heritage affects your point of view?” or “What should be humanity’s goal?” or “If you could teach the entire world just one concept, what would it be? These questions open the minds of your audience and provide you with multiple paths in which to take your presentation.
A Personal Experience – Audiences love to hear about your personal experiences. It makes you human and approachable. A personal foible of yours will be particularly loved by your audience. Experiment and don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself. The rewards from this are plenty
So, we have learned the benefits of a great opening, how your opening sets the tone of how your audience feels about your presentation, and the basic forms of the presentation opening.
Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Use your presentation opening to make the best first impression possible!
“You can tell if a man is clever by his answers. You can tell if a man is wise by his questions.” – unknown
Looking for professional services to help you significantly increase your influence with your audiences? Contact DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Office – (703) 815-1324 Cell/Text – (703) 509-4424