You have 20 seconds to raise my heartbeat. So start with a powerful opening.
We all know that first impressions last, in real life as well as in presentations. The very first words you say determine whether people will listen or tune out. Yet we never put much thought into it. Too many people still start off with polite, boring openings and the weather (‘Glad you could make it through the snow’).’ Yuck! Those opening lines signal to the audience that you have nothing new or interesting to say in the coming presentation.
To create a powerful opening line, I always recommend the PUNCH principle. So the next time you are fidgeting over your opening, start with a Bang! Make your opening line:
- Personal – connect with your audience, make it about them.
- Unexpected – get attention by doing something unexpected
- Novel – the brain does not pay attention to boring things
- Challenging – get your audience into the action mode
- Humorous – when they are laughing, they are listening
You can do this in different ways. You can start with a question: you immediately tap into the world of your audience. Ýou can start with a quote: you can build on someone else’s reputation or knowledge, e.g. by quoting Einstein. You can start with a story or anecdote; make it personal from the start. You can start with an interesting statistic: get them listening straight away. You can start with a newspaper article or something else that is top of mind or relevant for your audience: build your credibility. Check out TED.com for amazing talks and openings.
One more thing. While crafting your opening, never forget the WIIFT. What’s-In-It-For-Them? Make it relevant for them. Too many presentations are given as a ‘ME’ message. Translate that message into a ‘YOU’ message, and they will listen.
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