Chapter 3: Developing Compelling Presentations
What you want to do is find an opener that will distinguish you from the other people that they've heard.
So stay away from speech openers that simply thank the audience for the invitation or recaps the event's activities (they have a program for that).
If you start with openings like these, you'll fade into the background in no time. You'll have time to thank the group for the invite just don't do that as your opener.
Instead, jump into your presentation by grabbing their attention by using a compelling statement or statistic, humor, shock, or a powerful image. More specifically, consider these approaches:
- A Powerful Quote: If you use this technique, it's important that you use a well-known person because the name of the person who actually said the quote is sometimes more attention grabbing than the actual quote that was said. When a quotation is used, you're actually tapping into the credibility and likeability of the person uttering those words. So choose a person that has significant relevance to the audience. "According to Winston Churchill, the short words are best, and the old words are the best of all. If you really want to improve your written communication, stick to the short words..."
- A Rhetorical Question: When you ask a question, you immediately engage the minds of the attendees as they think of a response. "Do you remember what you had for breakfast this morning? Of course, you do. I'm going to show you some techniques that will allow you to remember things that you've done twenty years ago as easily as you recall a recent meal." In most cases, you're not actually waiting for a response from the audience; you just want to get their thinking juices flowing. If you do want feedback, simply raise one hand as your asking the question to indicate to the audience that you want a show of hands instead of a verbal response.
- A Bold Statement/Shocking Statistic: A bold claim or startling statistic can be a powerful way to set the stage for an informational or educational talk. "Every 7 seconds a woman is battered by an intimate partner in this country. That equates to 9 women a minute or 4.4 million each year." The jolting statistic is typically followed a pause and then a source such as "According to the National Center for Women and Children."
- An Anecdote/Story: Start your tale with the word "imagine." It's an engaging word that will draw the audience in and compel them to develop a picture in their minds. Images are more memorable than words. "Imagine racing down the staircase to escape Tower 2 on the infamous September 11th. You're hot, sticky, exhausted, and scared. As the building ferociously crumbles at your feet, you conclude that death is inevitable until a staircase summons you. With lightening speed, you and your co-workers follow the stairs down to the ground level where you're able to escape only moments before the tower collapses. It's no wonder why Patty Clark and her colleagues are on a mission to preserve the lifesaving staircase." Humorous stories can be good openers too as long as their based on real-life relatable experiences and you don't fall into the trap of telling jokes.
Now that you have some options, pick an opener that's right for your presentation. Keep your eyes peeled for interesting quotes, mind-blowing statistics, and insightful anecdotes. Also, re-read your old speeches too. You can breathe new life into an old presentation by adding a bold new opener. And once you do that, don't forget a powerful close.