12/07/2012

By Gavin Meikle

Successful presentations and speeches need to hook the audience’s attention in the first few seconds. It’s so obvious that I am amazed at the number of people who ignore this and start their presentations by giving their name and their credentials. “Good afternoon, my name is X and I am the marketing manager,,,,,” Yawn!

How many times have you heard a presentation start this way? Is it any wonder that our audience starts to drift off before we get to the important parts of our talk? Imagine if a film, TV programme or play started off with the credits. What are the chances that you would keep watching unless you absolutely had to?

So what should you do instead? Take a leaf out of the film director’s book. Start with something attention grabbing and interesting!

Here are some ideas to get you going:

● A startling statistic

● A powerful quotation

● A challenge to your audience

● A dramatic short story — “Imagine….”

● Show a striking image and ask your audience to think about how it might relate to the topic

You must set the scene and hook their attention BEFORE you tell them who you are and what you are going to be talking about. The purpose of your first few words should be to arouse curiosity and gain attention.

I still remember a presentation about the company pension scheme. Instead of talking about pensions, the presenter engaged his audience and asked us to share what we wanted to be able to do when we retired. After getting some great ideas from the audience he then paused and posed a second question - “How are you going to be able to afford to do all of those wonderful things?”. There was a perceptible “gulp” from most people in the room and suddenly the penny dropped. A presentation about dull boring pensions was transformed into one about how to discover ways to ensure we had enough money put aside to afford to live our dreams.

So next time you are preparing a speech or presentation test out your opening remarks. Are they dramatic? Are they different? Will they raise questions in the heads of your audience for which they want answers?

Go on, I dare to be different