“In 30 seconds everyone sitting in this room will have decided whether they are going to listen to the rest of what I have to say.”
While that is not a research statistic per se, it is what I tell myself every time I start thinking about a presentation and you should do the same. The actual time we are given to engage our audiences will vary by situation and individual — but it is always short. That simple fact makes having a dynamite opening to your presentation critical. So how do you do that?
Julie Hansen, author of Sales Presentations for Dummies, offers five Outside the Box presentation openings that you can adapt to almost any situation. And before you say “but I’m not selling anything in my presentation” stop and think. Yes, you are. Even if you are only giving the weekly forecast update to your product team, you are selling your expertise, your credibility, yourself. And the majority of the presentations we give every day have much higher stakes than that. So consider these ideas for making your presentations winners right “Out of the Box”.
- Tell a Success Story — show people that what you are “selling” works
- Use Shock and Awe — use a statistic or hypothetical to demonstrate the impact of your subject on your audience
- Pose an Intriguing Question — but make sure it is intriguing, not “how was your last quarter?”
- Use Discovery — take something you know about your audience and work that into your opening. People love to know you are interested in them
- Tell a Story — just make sure it is relevant to your audience and your point. Telling a group of new employees how you survived your first week on the job is relevant. Telling them about your child’s soccer game over the weekend? Not so much.
Using visuals and other props to support your story is fine. That’s why it’s called a presentation as opposed to a speech. But what you say and do in the first 30 seconds is still going to be the key to whether or not all the rest of your work on this presentation is wasted. Make them count by being “Outside the Box”.