Get them at ‘Hello’

(Some of my comments from a recent LinkedIn group discussion thread about the importance of a presentation’s introduction …)

The first few minutes of any presentation are most important minutes. Start strong, powerfully, engaging and immediately so you don’t blow your intro. And never start with a joke unless you were hired as an entertainer and the only goal is to be humorous. Jokes rarely work in typical workplace presentations.

What does work is thorough planning and careful crafting of your opening comments. Introductions should generally be 10 % of the running length – 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, so they know what they’re about to hear. The old adage – ‘Tell ’em what you’re gonna say … ‘
  • 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 just shared. If so, don’t repeat what they already know.
  • Mention when and how the audience should ask questions.
  • Also indicate if you have a handout or take-home for them and when they’ll get it.

Like I said, a lot to do in a short time. So, get your audience at ‘Hello’ and don’t blow your intro.

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