If the first few minutes of a movie don’t grab you, you’re not going to want to pay a lot of attention to what follows. Like some people we know, you may even walk out fifteen minutes into the thing.
In the same way, how we start a presentation is equally crucial. As with any first impression, the beginning is what will trigger immediate empathy or indifference in an audience.
So how is the magic of a perfect start accomplished?
The presenter has to say something that has impact, something that will trigger interest in what’s coming next. For example, a presenter can use one of the narrative devices we’ve talked about before:
–Use METAPHOR: If the subject is complicated, see if you can come up with an equally complicated situation your audience can feel connected to. We tend to pay more attention and retain messages better if they’re associated with something we like. So find something symbolic of your issue or your theme and go for it. Here’s a metaphor for surprise: You could’ve knocked me over with a feather!
– PROVOKE or INTERROGATE: Provoking is allowed as long as it isn’t offensive. Ask the audience a tricky question, for example. People will usually want to participate if they feel challenged in a positive way. And getting audience members to participate is a great way to get the full attention of that audience.
Any of these tools can be appropriate for a first moment, as long as the result has impact. And if possible, try for the unexpected, too. So the audience feels they can’t afford to miss even a nanosecond of what’s coming.
You want your slides to explode on the stage, to be exciting visually, if you want to move the viewer. So ditch anything with the company name and date and just jump into a hot presentation with both feet.
How? Well, for example:
– Display the slogan you’ve created for the presentation. This may also be useful if you know the entire audience can’t stay for the whole thing.
– Use a slide along with an intriguing question to evoke a positive expectation in the audience.
– Use an image that’s related to the main topic of the presentation to bring your audience closer to the subject.
– Or simply create a beautiful slide. This is an easy but different way to start conveying your presentation concept.
As Carmen Simon says, “A good speaker with bad beginnings is like a fitness trainer who smokes.”
So after you’ve got the best first two minutes you can come up with and the perfect slide(s) to go along, you have to rehearse so much you couldn’t improvise if your life depended on it.