I recently engaged in a LinkedIn discussion group about using jokes in the introduction of a presentation to gain audience interest. Here’s a summary of my rant on that topic.
I totally agree that the first few minutes of any presentation are most important. Start strong, powerfully and engaging – immediately. But, I totally disagree with telling a joke unless you were hired to be an entertainer, it’s an after dinner speech and the only goal is to be humorous. Jokes rarely work in a typical workplace presentation and can create a very ineffective impression from the beginning. It’s often hard to recover from such a weak start.
Introduction should be about 10 % of the running length of the presentation, or less, and accomplish a lot of important tasks:
- Engage the audience immediately with a question, fact, stat, quote, etc. Stories work, but they have to be very short and connect directly to the message … and most aren’t.
- Overview main point and sub points of the message, so they know what they’re about to hear.
- Stress why the information is important to them – answer the question on everyone’s mind, ‘WII-FM?’
- Briefly state your background/credibility unless that was already done in the speaker intro someone else shared for you. If so, don’t repeat what they already heard.
- Mention when and how to ask questions.
- Indicate if you have a handout or take-home for them and when they’ll get it.
- Restate your Main Point and transition to your first sub point.
Like I said, a lot of important work to do in a short time. The more and better thought and effort you invest in your introduction, the more successful the rest of your presentation will be. With any luck, you’ll have them at ‘hello’. So, so you see enough ‘WII-FM’ for you to invest in starting strong?
For more details, see ‘Starting Strong’ in the website articles archives under ‘Presentations’.