Let me remind you of a very old quote, “You never get a second chance to make your first impression”. Believe me, through experience I can tell you that, if you win the hearts of your audience in the first 15 minutes, the show is all yours. God forbid, if you don’t, then, no matter how many magic tricks you perform, you will still be looked at with nasty expressions asking you to JUST STOP.
Let’s unlearn the clichéd way of introduction where the presenter welcomes the audience, introduces himself, takes a brief background of the audience and then starts the session. You have to gain attention of the audience; don’t just enter and complete your presentation like a tick-mark activity.
Whether your audience takes you seriously or not, is totally dependent on these first 15 minutes. Let’s look at some tried and tested ways to open your presentations with a BANG…!!!
- The Mirror is your Best Friend: Before entering the presentation room, please don’t think that it is funny to visit the washroom. In fact, you MUST visit the restroom as a religious practice. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, “Do you look formally presentable and one step above-dressed than the audience?” If you are dressed like your audience, you will look and be like one of them. All good orators ensure to be dressed very formally before any presentation. When you enter the room, the audience should be able to catch the ‘wow’ attention instantly. Ensure to wear the right deodorant and perfume. Something too strong – woody and musky – will be indigestive for the audience’s olfactory senses.
- Love your Kinesics: We are referring to your body language. Walk like you are the king; however, be careful, you should not look haughty. No slouch please; it looks so shoddy and sub-standard. Carry yourself with your head held high and a straight back. Walk tall; it shows your confidence.
Once your first impression has been created, focus on the remaining 14 minutes. There are several ways in which you can start your presentation by ensuring that you leave your mark on your listeners.
- Be personal: You may link one of your personal experiences to introduce the topic of your presentation. By starting on a personal note, your audience gets the feeling of the human element in you and will be ready to open up and share their experiences. You will connect with each other much better.
- Humor: Your audience will enter the presentation room with various things going on in their mind. Humor, will relax them and will bring the audience on a common platform. Don’t just crack a joke because you think it is funny. Share a humorous anecdote, quote, story only if it is relevant to the presentation. Be wary while using humor, as it may become offensive for some. Do not consider sarcasm to be anywhere close to humor. Be sarcastic with one person and your will lose the attention of all your participants. Even when you use humor skillfully, don't expect your audience to convulse in laughter. There's no laughter meter and you're no standup comedian. Don’t laugh at your own jokes. In my experience, not more 4 instances of humor in a 60 minutes presentation should be demonstrated. Just use it to convey your point, not because you have nothing to say.
- AV’s: Visuals add a different dimension to your presentation and it is very critical to capitalize on it. Using visuals will stimulate your audience and work well in the physical setting of your presentation. In many studies, experimental psychologists have found that retention of information three days after a meeting or other event is six times greater when information is presented by visual and oral means than when the information is presented by the spoken word alone. Almost 83% of human learning occurs visually and the remaining 17% through other senses.
- Thank your Audience: Why not start by thanking your audience for their time? It’s the equivalent of complimenting your date and handing her flowers as soon as you meet her. It will make the audience feel valued, respected and valued.
- Introductions: This can either be the most fascinating or the most unexciting part of the presentation. You may run your intro session in the usual “what is your name, how many years of experience, hobbies, etc?” But, if you do this, be rest assured that your audience will be disconnected from the beginning. Commence with an interesting activity like start a chain by saying that you are taking all of them for an imaginary picnic and each one has to introduce themselves with their name and prefixing it with an adjective of what they are; this too should start with the same letter as the first letter of their name. Additionally, each participant has to bring something with them for the picnic; that too should start with the same letter as their name. Eg. Aggressive Anamika went for the picnic with Apples. This is just one example of an activity during a training program. There are so many more activities that can done for a presentation session as well.
Remember to make your initial 15 minutes full of life and zeal. If you succeed, your audience will be with you throughout.
So, open with a BANG…!