You have a few seconds to set the tone for your presentation. A good start paves the road to success while a weak opening can slam shut the door to success.
Your opening must do three things for you. Grab attention, set the direction and establish rapport. Without their attention you have a room of non-listeners. Without knowing your direction your audience will feel lost and confused. Without rapport you might have a room of enemies.
You can grab attention with contrast, relevance and credibility.
You can set the direction by answering the question, “Why are we here?”
You can establish rapport by demonstrating empathy, common interest and confidence.
The Marcel Marceau Opening
Use this powerful technique to open your presentation.
When it’s your turn to speak, walk slowly, proudly and smiling to the front of the room. Take your position. Face the audience. Stand tall. Smile confidently. Say nothing. Glance at one individual, then another, and another. Do this silently for up to eight seconds.
This is how you claim the room. It allows everyone to stop fidgeting and focus their attention on you. They will be amazed at your self confidence to look so good and patiently wait before you speak. They will anticipate listening to a powerful presentation. Choose your first words carefully because they will be listening intently.
5 Presentation Opening Mistakes to Avoid
Speaking on your way to the front of the room
Doing this diminishes your perceived confidence and power because you appear unwilling to wait. In addition many people might not hear what you said while walking to the front of the room.
Telling a joke
This was standard advice to public speakers five decades ago. It was bad advice then and even worse today. Don’t start with a joke. In fact you should never tell jokes in your presentations. Most jokes make fun of somebody else and that’s not the way to establish rapport with your audience. A painful example of this was for the speaker to tell a lawyer joke before opening the speech to a room full of lawyers.
Testing the microphone as you open
Perhaps you’ve witnessed a speaker tapping or blowing into the microphone and saying “Is this thing on?” The time to test the microphone was before the meeting began. Get into the room before the audience arrives to test the audio and video equipment.
Before I begin
Think about that statement. The speaker walked to the front of the run and started with, “Before I begin.” That’s like a runner at the start of a race. The starter pistol sounds and everyone dashes off except one person who says, “I’m not ready yet.” The race started without you. Your presentation started when you were introduced.
Reading your opening
Listening to your reading your speech seldom feels authentic to your audience. Reading your opening will feel cold and distant. You won’t connect because your audience is likely to think, “Are you talking to me or only reading a prepared statement?” The worst case of reading your speech is reading your self introduction, “Hello, my name is George.” I’ve seen speakers read their own name. That’s usually the beginning to a boring speech. When you are reading, you are not making eye contact. You’re not building rapport. You might as well be in another room.
Design the opening to your presentation with the care that you should prepare the curb view of your house when you put it up for sale. If people don’t like the curb view they will drive by. Do you want your audience to drive by – or to eagerly embrace your presentation?