Think how you typically start a speech or presentation. Do you begin with any of these lines?:
– Hi, my name is … and I’m here to talk about…
– Before I start, I want to introduce myself…
– Thank you all for coming, I’m really pleased to be here…
Why? Because audiences form an impression within seconds. They quickly decide whether or not to pay attention. That’s why it’s so important to hook your audience immediately. And as a leader, great communication skills are vitally important.
In addition, psychologists have demonstrated a phenomenon known as the primacy effect. Your audience is more likely to remember the first bits of information they hear. Therefore whatever you say in your opening lines should relate clearly to your key message.
Is there a short relevant anecdote that you could open with? If you can, use a local or topical angle. Your audience will know that you have tailored your talk for them. This will help to keep things fresh for you, too, particularly if you are delivering the same talk or presentation several times.
Or perhaps you could keep your audience in suspense with this one simple trick:
This could be a rhetorical question to make the audience think, or it could involve asking the audience to respond, usually by raising their hands if something applies to them. Alternatively, you could set out the question that your talk will address. Read our article on using powerful language in your talks.
This technique blends the first two approaches. It sets a scene and prompts the audience to imagine what they would do or think in those circumstances. Scenarios are an effective way of demonstrating the relevance of abstract topics to the lives of the audience.
To use this technique:
Watch this technique in action: See UPS’s Human Resource Manager, Regina Hartley, begin her presentation by setting out a scenario.
Will your audience have certain expectations about you or your talk, before you even begin? Then Start with something unexpected – or even shocking – to make them reconsider their preconceived ideas.
The way you do this needs to be relevant to avoid being gimmicky. When done well, it can be memorable, potentially humorous and even remarkable – with audience members sharing and reliving their reactions afterwards.
How to deal with housekeeping, introductions or pleasantries
Leave the housekeeping, introductions or pleasantries to the person who welcomes you to the front of the room.
If you need to cover some low impact but essential content, or if you won’t be introduced by anyone, it’s still important to begin with a high impact first minute. You can then loop back to the housekeeping, introductions or pleasantries once you have successfully engaged your audience.
If you need help choosing a great public speaking coach, read our guide to choosing a public speaking coach
First, download our free ebook to start your journey towards becoming a Powerful Presenter.
You’ll learn our 5-step process for transforming ordinary presentations into your most Powerful Presentations yet: inspirational, memorable and persuasive.
This ebook is full of practical tips and insightful quotes that will help you make immediate improvements to your leadership talks and presentations, including:
Download your free copy of our Five Steps to Improve your Leadership Talks ebook now.
At Benjamin Ball Associates we help our clients create powerful talks and powerful first impressions. And we’ll coach you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.
Call Louise on 020 7018 0922 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more and discuss your upcoming speech or presentation. Talk to us about public speaking coaching.
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