Monday, May 20, 2019

How to Start a Presentation or Speech

Stanford's Matt Abrahams offers some important and useful advice for those crafting a speech or presentation.  He argues that you need to grab people's attention at the start, and he advises against the usual introductory remarks that people often give at the start of a speech or presentation.  I've listened to a number of speeches lately in which the speaker seems to talk for a minute or two before actually diving into the main content. It's a slow, often uninteresting start. They aren't grabbing my attention. Abrahams must hear that type of start often. He does a nice job of explaining how to launch more effectively. 

The most precious commodity in today’s world is not gold or cryptocurrency, but attention. We are inundated with a tremendous amount of information vying for our focus. Why then would so many people squander away an opportunity to gain attention by starting presentations or meetings with: “Hi, my name is … and today I am going to talk about …” This is a lackluster, banal, disengaging way to begin. Not only does it lack originality, it is downright silly since most speakers start this way while standing in front of a slide displaying their name along with the title of their talk.

Rather than commence with a boring and routine start, kick off your presentation like a James Bond movie — with action: You can tell a story, take a poll, ask a provocative question, show a video clip. Starting in this manner captures your audience’s focus and pulls them away from other attention-grabbing ideas, people, or devices. This action-oriented approach works for meetings, too. On your agenda, have the first item be one or two questions to be answered when you start. In this way, participants get engaged from the moment the meeting begins.

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