1) Open with something unusual, something your audience isn’t expecting. Surprise them! But. remember, also make sure that the audience knows why you started in an unusual way. Talk about it. Explain why during the presentation itself.
Example: One of our clients, at a lecture developed by SOAP, began with: “I came here today to say that Brazil is doomed.” And then, to introduce evidence of ways in which the country isn’t doing well, he turned the tables and completed the thought, ” . . . it is condemned to work hard!”
2) Get the audience’s attention in the first seconds. Your challenge in a presentation is to get the audience’s “approval.” That is, approval in the broad sense of the word. This can involve the ultimate acceptance of a product or of an idea. Get their attention by awakening your audience with something unique.
Example: In a presentation we did for The Economist, we started with two images, of a pig and a suitcase, and the question: “What’s the connection?” And we didn’t answer that question until the very last slide, when our audience was ready to grasp the concept we wanted to deliver: The swine flu impacts traveling and is impacted by travel!
3) Start your story without preamble. Nobody wants you to start with an introduction. Think of a movie. When it starts, it gets straight to the point. The director doesn’t tell the history of the world. The story just starts at a natural beginning. In most cases, actually, your audience already knows who you are. And even if they don’t, they’ll end up knowing by the time your presentation is done.
Example: The CEO of Thomson Reuters in Brazil gave a lecture based on his life story. He began by saying that “life is a game” and that his game could have called at 18 when he’d been in a car accident. From that point on, everybody was aware that the lecture would contain drama and suspense – the very important elements of a good story – and their interest was secured.
4) Get to the point. If you have little time and know that your audience won’t be able to hear a whole story, start with the conclusion. In meetings where the CEO is present and you know the boss’s time is limited, you should present the main idea in the first slide.
Example: A known TV announcer, to get a new job at a very big TV station, asked us for a presentation about his professional profile. We knew it was important to tell some stories, but we also knew that the people who were making the hiring decision wouldn’t have much time to spend with this presentation. So we created a concept that made it clear that this was the right man for that station. Thus, in the first minutes, the announcer presented his slogan: “Marcos Mion the right man for your business.”
5) Start with a metaphor. Metaphor, as a literary device, is a shortcut to understanding. Use this device when a subject is complex. Choose a familiar metaphor to express something that may not be so familiar or to make a succinct point.
Example: The CEO of a multinational stopped doing business with its main competitor and had to explain his decision to the board in France. His metaphor was: “The bride didn’t show up. Great news for the groom!” His objective was to focus on the opportunities that being uncommitted to one entity could bring to the business from others.