Presentation Opening—How to Grab Your Audience by Their Corpuscles and Wake Them Up!
By Allan Kaufman and Allan Misch
All eyes are upon you. Tension fills the air. Your audience awaits your first words. So what should you do?
You cut the tension and “break the ice” confidently and powerfully—you grab your audience’s attention, get them leaning forward with anticipation, and make them feel that they’re going to get what they came for. How do you do that? First…
Pause dramatically for a few seconds.
Lean forward slightly. Make eye contact with some in your audience. Smile if you’ll be starting on a light note. Feel the exchange of positive energy between you and your audience. Then begin by using one of these strategies…
Tell a memorized anecdote or short story that introduces your message.
Use visually descriptive words that cause your audience to experience emotional shifts that are congruent with the emotional aspect of your message, or…
Relate a memorized personalized joke or humorous story that ties into your thesis.
This builds rapport rapidly and gets your audience into an “I want to hear more” mood. Keep it short and don’t introduce it by saying, “I want to start by telling you a joke [story].” Just get into it, or…
Make a shocking or unexpected memorized statement.
After making your statement, pause and look at your audience. That’s called a dramatic pause.
For example, “I made ten thousand dollars on the phone last night in my polka dot PJs… legally. (Pause and look at your audience.) I’m going to tell you exactly how I did it and how you can do it too.” or…
Ask a memorized rhetorical, involvement question.
Then hold up your hand and wait for your audience to raise their hands. For example, “How many of you sell?” or “How many of you would like to give such an effective presentation that you would literally hold your audience in the palm of your hand?” You accomplish four things by doing this.
First, you get your audience’s attention. Second, you put your audience in a positive emotional state with a “YES” answer. Third, by following your lead and raising their hands, your audience demonstrates their rapport with you. And fourth, they get involved physically in your presentation, or…
Cast your premise into a memorized “would you rather” question with a predetermined answer.
For example, “Would you rather be working your own business, making your own decisions, choosing your own hours, making a six-figure income, or be working at a job 8 to 10 hours a day building your boss’s dream? (Pause) Today we’ll discuss how you can develop your own business, be in control of your own life, and build your own dream.”
An attention-grabbing opening is critical for presentation success. Memorize your opening to insure a flawless delivery. Use a strong pause. Tell a descriptive story that moves your audience emotionally. Relate a humorous experience that ties into your thesis. Do or say something unexpected. Ask a thesis-related question that involves your audience either physically or emotionally.
In his book Made to Stick, Chip Heath notes, “The first problem of communication is getting people’s attention.” Launch your presentation with one of these strategies, and you’ll seize your audience’s attention and wake them up!
How do you grab your audience’s attention in the beginning of your presentations? Let us know in the comments.