Seize Your Opening



By Susan Tomai

We recently conducted a day of presentation training for a group of distinguished scientists. And even though most of them could probably decode the human genome on the back of a cocktail napkin, they, like so many presenters, did not understand the importance of a powerful opening.

Their existing presentations all began with a drearily typical cover slide – name, date, title of presentation, organization logo, predictable PowerPoint template – and each speaker started off by saying something along the lines of “Good morning, I’m happy to be here, today I’m going to talk about XYZ.” Not the sort of bravura beginning that makes the audience sit up and take notice.

So we gave them the tips we give all our clients:

  • Grab the audience’s attention right from the jump. Find something interesting to lure them into listening, perhaps a stunning statistic, a visual or a story.
  • Then tell them “the point”: the explanation behind that particular stat, visual or story.
  • Then tell them what’s in it for them and why they should care: i.e., why the information will help them in their professional lives, why it will help others, etc.

After these grabbers, you’re ready to dive into the body of your presentation. Oh – and dump that place-holding cover slide. It’s okay for the handouts you might give the audience after you’ve finished speaking, but it’s a yawner if it’s the first thing your audience sees.

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