Get Them At Hello!

We all learned about the three parts of a speech in high school: the introduction, body and conclusion. You remember … ‘Tell ‘em what you’re gonna say … say it … and tell ‘em what you said.’  Nothing new here.

Each of these three components is important for different reasons, but your Power Intro plays a critical role in the success of your presentation and accomplishing your intended outcomes. On average, it’s less than 10% of your total presentation time. So, with a 30-minute presentation, your intro is three minutes … or less.

Since the audience is influenced most by what they hear first, a powerful intro can quickly build rapport, establish credibility, stress audience-centric value and let them know what’s coming. That’s a lot of important work to do in a very short time, so every word must count. Done right, you can Get Them At Hello and win the day before you even start your content.

Here’s a summary of Best Practices for your Power Intro so you can Start Strong.

  • Capture audience attention and engage them from the get go. Your first words should ‘hook ’em’. Do this with a pertinent quote, dramatic statement, statistic, fact, rhetorical or actual question. You can thank your host for the invitation and/or intro after you ‘hook ‘em’, but not your first words.
  • While anecdotes or stories are generally effective in presentations, they can take too much time for the intro and distract from its purpose. Better to put them in the actual body.
  • Clearly state your Main Point and Purpose of your presentation. Let the audience know what you’ll be discussing. And ‘discussing’ sounds more interactive and less like lecture than saying ‘ … what I’ll be telling you.’ Your Main Point isn’t your topic or title. It’s a positive, declarative statement. Said another way – it’s your ‘BLUF’… Bottom Line Up Front.
  • Also preview your Sub Points – the questions you’ll answer or the content you’ll share in the body that will fully support and establish your Main Point.
  • If not already stated, answer the audience’s question ‘WII-FM – What’s In It For Me?’ – the Value Proposition of your message. A subtle connection makes the audience work too hard to connect the dots. So, connect the dots for them.
  • Establish your credentials by answering their questions ‘Who are you and why should we listen to you?’ If they already know you, no need to remind them what they already know. If someone else is introducing you, make sure that intro is brief but answers those two questions.
  • When in doubt or speaking to a mixed audience, briefly intro yourself. But, never start with ‘First … let me tell you a little about me.’ Sends out the wrong message about what’s really important. Avoid the trite phrase ‘For those of you who don’t know me … ‘. If your name and title are on the opening PowerPoint slide, you can start your engaging comments first, then intro yourself.
  • Indicate when the audience can ask questions – either at the end or any time they want. Even if you ask them to hold questions until the end, that won’t keep some people from jumping in whenever they want. So, be prepared to deal with that.
  • Reference your handout if you have one. If you’ve already passed it out or sent the file electronically, indicate that they’ll need to refer to it during the presentation. If they don’t need it now, why did you give it to them? If you have a handout or file for them afterwards, indicate what it will include so they don’t need to take as many notes.
  • You may also need to mention some Process Details. I don’t like the term ‘housekeeping’ – sounds like you’re about to make their bed. Better for someone else to tell the audience about safety procedures, breaks, restrooms, technology off, etc. if needed so you don’t take away from your limited intro time with such trivia.
  • If it isn’t painfully obvious by now, humor – especially jokes – can create a negative impression on your audience, especially in your intro. Saying something potentially offensive is bad enough, but saying something not funny is even worse. If you never try to be funny, they’ll never know or care if you can be. If you try and fail, they’ll all know you can’t.
  • Natural humor can work in your introduction, but err on the side of being conservative unless you have a high tolerance for risk. There are enough effective strategies for audience engagement and attention without the downside risks of failed humor. Enough said.
  • Now, you can move to your first Sub Point with a simple Transition Statement and the opportunity to restate your Main Point.

Wheeww … your Power Intro has a lot of important work to do in a very short time. Properly done, the audience will know what they’re going to hear, why it’s important to them and why they should believe – and even like – you. You want them to feel ‘You had me at hello!’ and ‘close the sale’ by the end of your intro. What follows it only reinforces the conclusion the audience made in the first few minutes. So, grab them immediately with a Strong Start and win the day with a Power Intro.


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