Presentations Demand a Strong Start

Updated: Sep 24

Remember the dress? How so many people, including this writer, could see the dress as white and gold, when in reality, it was blue and black?

The fact is that we biologically see things differently. Some differences depend on the how the light hits the subject; some on how our eyes (rods and cones) work. Yet to the person who sees the dress as white and gold, that’s what it is. They will react to their “reality” even if it can be proven incorrect.


Right? Left? Wrong?

Do Your Presentations Have the Right Premise?

So why is that important for presenters? Because people in the audience ask themselves these questions:

  • Q1: “Can I trust the presenter (what I’m seeing)?” If the answer is “No” or “this feels odd” or “I wonder if he’s trying to manipulate me,” any message delivered will be treated with suspicion and subjected to lots of testing.

  • Q2: “Why should I care what they say?” If the listener does not VERY quickly understand why it is in their interest to listen, they tune out.

  • Q3: “Is the presenter competent – are they believable?” Without credibility, presenters fail, even if they pass the first two tests.

Use Structure and Process – Right Away

You need to capture attention immediately! A room full of people all thinking about their personal issues and business opportunities means they are not likely to be thinking about your subject. And you need to grab their attention in a way that does not feel threatening or so odd that it leads to distrust.

One great way to do that is to Not Start off telling them about yourself, your education, your experience, your vast array of contacts. Instead, provide some insightful facts or a great story about their industry, their business, or their customers. You’ve shown them that you care enough about them to do some research and understand some crucial things about them, their problems, their opportunities. You’ve started earning trust.

You can capture interest with a clever and short video with just the tiniest introduction, such as “let’s get off to a strong start with this short video that I think will hit home”. Video grabs attention at multiple levels. It gives you an opportunity to discuss the key ideas with people by asking a good question as follow-up. You can get immediate audience participation. This effort to relate often generates reciprocity – since you cared enough to start off with effort to relate to them, they will make the effort to relate to you.

Either of the above approaches should help you build your credibility as well. By structuring your opening to include very specific information that the audience already believes, you have tied yourself to their beliefs in a positive way. You’ve gotten them to suspend negative judgment and go along with you as you begin to move along the path of your presentation toward your objectives.

Don’t Waste Your First Impression

Carefully constructing your opening remarks will pay off – not just a little – but with a huge ROTI – return on time invested.

Practice is the key. You don’t need to rehearse your entire presentation to perfection – but you do need to have your opening as close to perfect as you have time to make it. Knowing your opening remarks cold, your first two minutes will give you confidence, will begin winning over the audience, and will set up the rest of the presentation as one people will want to hear and not just endure.

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