Starting your presentation is not necessarily the hardest part, but it can get you off on the right or the wrong foot so it’s important to give a lot of thought to the words you use.
Think about how many people begin:
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I’m very pleased to be here today to speak to you about bla bla bla…”
“Good morning. Thank you Marilyn for that wonderful introduction.”
“My name is Frank Johnson and I am the Manager of the Western Division. I just want to bring you up to date bla bla bla…”
If you were in the audience, how you would react to any of those? How HAVE you reacted when you’ve heard them in the past? I know what I always think: “Oh boy, here comes a long, boring speech. I wonder what’s for lunch.”
Here’s another phrase I just hate to hear when someone is starting a presentation:
“Did you hear the one about…?”
Please please please, don’t start your presentation with a joke, especially a generic one that they’ve probably heard before. Jokes are freely available on the Internet or around the water cooler, so we don’t need to hear them when you’re starting your presentation.
“I want to tell you a little story.”
People love stories, and they are usually prepared to enjoy them. So if you say you’re going to tell them a story and then for whatever reason it doesn’t live up to their expectations, you’ll have lost them before you start on the main message. If you’re going to tell a story, just tell the story. For example, consider the following two openings:
1. I want to tell you a story. This took place about five years ago when I was traveling in South America, Brazil actually. I happened to be there when it was Carnival time, and I had been really looking forward to it. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Brazil, but it’s a very colorful place and the people are friendly. It’s also really hot and I love hot weather, don’t you?
2. It’s just after 10 a.m. The sun is blazing down on the crowd of thousands, sitting in the bleachers waiting expectantly. Finally, we hear the distant sound of music and feel the beat of thousands of feet dancing towards us. We all stand up to see better as hundreds of samba bands gradually fill the stadium in front of us, and then the whole place turns into a celebration of sound, color, dancing, music, rhythm and pure happiness!
Now which presentation do you want to hear? The first speaker takes forever to get started, while the second one takes the audience right there to the scene of the action.
It’s not difficult to do this, but you have to think about it. Too often, especially in business, people just do the old “good morning, thank you for having me here” thing because it never occurs to them that there’s a better way.
Next time, think about starting your presentation by taking your audience right with you into the story. You’ll create instant rapport, and your presentation’s chances of success will have just increased exponentially.