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On-Point, Powerful Presentations

Zena Schmidt

On-Point, Powerful Presentations by Zena Schmidt on July 27th, 2018

Fun fact! You have roughly 60 seconds at the beginning of your presentation to capture your audience’s attention, establish credibility, orient them to your topic, and motivate them to listen.

Whether you’re speaking to the C-Suite, walking a client through a marketing proposal, or pitching for a new piece of business, you certainly don’t want to waste precious opening seconds. Common mistakes include beginning your presentation with a nervous joke, a boring agenda, an apology, multiple thank-yous, or a rambling pointless paragraph riddled with “ums” and “uhs.” These blunders make it easy for your audience’s minds to drift, and unfortunately, statistics show that once this occurs, you likely won’t be able to get their attention back.

Now the million-dollar question becomes, “What tools can be used at the beginning of my speech to deliver a presentation that packs a serious punch?” Here are 4 tips for optimal attention-grabbing success in the opening minute!

Tell a Captivating Story

Storytelling is among the most powerful and consistently successful starters that you have available in your toolkit. Since a young age, we have been hard-wired to relish stories and use them to acquire valuable knowledge. We can often relate to the web of characters, intricate plots, and lessons learned. Well crafted tales that remind us of our own lives entice and captivate us.

Start with a brief 60 to 90-second narrative to launch your speech. If you want your audience to learn first-hand why you invested, devoted and passionate about a topic, the story can be about you personally. If you prefer, the story can be about another person that your audience can learn from. Whichever you choose, make sure you ask yourself what you want your listeners to gain, feel, or do as a result of the story, and make sure the elements encapsulate that.

Ask a Rhetorical Thought-Provoking Question

As a speaker, you ask rhetorical questions for persuasive effect. They can be an extremely useful tool if there is an aspect of your speech that you would like your audience to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to. Flawlessly crafted and well delivered rhetorical questions arouse curiosity, motivate your audience to think about the answer, and can ultimately influence listeners to believe in the position of the speaker – you!

State Something Shocking 

Open your speech by shocking your listeners with a startling statement, statistic, bold claim, or headline that directly relates to the main purpose of your presentation. This method can be a particularly effective way to grip the audience member’s attention, and immediately differentiate yourself and your topic from other speakers. Though shocking statements most frequently rely on statistics, they can also express strong opinions that challenge wide-spread, and generally accepted beliefs. The most important thing to accomplish in your statement is a point will trigger a range of audience emotions.  If you share a “what”, then people will have a burning desire to fill in the gaps on who, where, when, why, and how.

Remember, for a statement to be shocking, it has to be something that is not common knowledge. When you provide a fact that most people are unaware of, you’ve instantly added value to their lives and made a positive impression.

Show a Gripping Photo

We have all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and it couldn’t be more correct. A quality photo increases comprehension, engages the audience’s imagination, adds aesthetic appeal, and makes your message memorable. Rather than showing mundane charts, graphs, and spreadsheets open your presentation with one compelling photo that summarizes your message.

What are you waiting for? Try it out! Start your next presentation with a bang! Whether it’s by telling a personal story, asking a powerful question, sharing a shocking statistic or showing a thought-provoking photo. Just make sure that your introduction completely supports the primary theme or objective of your speech, and you are good to go!


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