It only takes three seconds to form a first impression of someone. So it's important to make a good first impression.
The same is true when we give a presentation. Our opening should capture our audience's attention. We want them to think 'WOW, this is someone worth listening to!'
In a previous article, I discussed the aspects of the body of a presentation. Once this has been organised it's then time for the WOW factor. What will be your opening line that will have your audience listening intently?
The opening is dependent on your topic and your audience.
Consider these options for an opening:
'24,000 children die from poverty-related causes every day around the world.'
'Imagination is more important than knowledge.' [Albert Einstein]
'Has anyone here ever felt overwhelmed by the number of emails that you receive in a day?'
'Imagine living in a pain-free state…'
'One in every five motor vehicle occupants killed on our roads last year was unbelted. One such person was John. John was an 18-year-old who after a big night out with friends was crammed into the back seat of his friend's car … not wearing a seat belt. After all it was rather difficult with three big guys in the back seat and it was only a short trip home.
Dave, who was driving, was speeding and had had a few drinks that night. He lost control of the car. Dave was wearing a seat belt and survived the crash. John and his friends in the back seat … never made it.'
The hook or as I like to term it, the WOW factor, helps to gain your audience's attention.
Living in the 21st century we find that our time and attention are in constant demand – not only from people but also our gadgets. An appropriate and strong opening will help the audience to stay focused on your presentation.
Structuring your Opening
- Have a WOW factor
- State the importance of the issue that you'll be presenting
- Set the scene of what will be covered in the presentation
- Outline if/when there will be a question time – this is dependent on the type of presentation and the size of your audience
Now that you have your opening and body of the presentation it's important to spend some time on the close. People often place less importance on the close of a presentation than on the opening and body.
Ask yourself: What do I want my audience to do as a result of this presentation?
The close is important in that it helps you to bring your audience full circle. It's your opportunity to let your audience know what exactly it is you want them to do as a result of listening to you – whether it be to change current habits or to purchase your products or services.
Structuring your Close
- Summarise your main points
- Link it back to your WOW factor from your opening
- Include a call to action
In closing this article …
A strong opening will gain your audience's attention. A concise and logical flowing body will engage your audience. An effective close with a clear message will bring everything together and give direction to your audience.
How do you approach your presentations?