Why does it seem every presentation starts with the same boring introduction?
“Thank you for joining me. We are here today to discuss…”
Is it necessary, or is it nonsense? In all my years of corporate work, I have never walked into the wrong presentation only to discover my error through the presenter’s topic introduction. It’s probably safe to assume you haven’t either. Then why do we often hear this opening phrase kick off most meetings? With only 90 seconds to capture an audience’s attention, a presenter shouldn’t waste it on a nothing introduction.
The goal for any presenter should be leaving their audience feeling influenced by the discussion and compelled to act upon it. This requires capturing and keeping the audience’s attention from beginning to end. If you want to create momentum in your discussion and influence audience members to act upon what you have to say, consider a way to S.P.A.R.K. their interest first.
S – Stories:
Opening your presentation with a story is a great way to tap into their emotions and experience. The moment you begin speaking, a story will captivate their attention. It will draw your audience in and create momentum for the presentation.
Keep the story simple and to the point. Set it up with the situation and characters. Create a defining moment in the story that keeps your listeners wanting to hear more. At that moment, conclude with a point that ties directly into your presentation topic.
Stories create an emotional framework for the room, ensuring everyone is in the same place to hear and understand your ideas.
P – Pictures
Words and numbers on a screen fail to make the impact that pictures do. One Yale study found that audience members forget 60% of information shared within 20 minutes of a presentation. To create a presentation that attendees remember long enough to act upon, you must appeal to their visual needs. Illustrations, such as simple visuals that tie to your story, can help minds retain facts.
Instead of adding words and numbers to your slides, use a simple picture that tells a story. By verbally sharing your data paired with a visual representation, you’re more likely to create an idea that sticks.
When choosing the right visuals, ensure that they:
- Enhance listener understanding by illustrating your idea.
- Communicate your idea in a simple way.
- Support your message directly.
A – Analogy
Complex ideas are easier to explain when you can compare them to something your listener already understands. Analogies create a comparative framework that drives your point home. For example:
Learning a new communication skill is like learning to play golf. It feels uncomfortable, even awkward at first, but the more you practice, the more comfortable you feel, the more confidence you gain, and the better your game becomes.
Consider opening your presentation with an analogy to which your audience can relate. This type of introduction will create momentum to allow you to jump right into your most valuable points.
R – References, Quotes and Questions
Consider opening your presentation with a powerful quote or reference that ties directly into your topic. For instance:
“The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said over 2% of employees will voluntarily leave their job in 2020. While Work Institute reports 77% of employee turnover is avoidable.”
Opening with a reference can quickly capture attention and pull your audience into the topic at hand. Additionally, references and quotes add credibility to your ideas.
Questions can do the same by quickly pulling your audience into the discussion. Opening your presentation with a question that elicits emotion will evoke the audience to engage. For instance: “What is the greatest challenge you have in retaining clients?” This type of question will lead the audience to answer, interact and open the conversation up for you to share.
K – Keep Them Laughing
Laughter is a great way to create an instant connection with your audience. Using natural humor disarms even the biggest skeptics. A great place to start is self-deprecating humor. Exaggerating everyday funny stories or embellishing your own experiences can create a chuckle and provide a level of relation and vulnerability that cuts through tension or disinterest.
Our words don’t always create the action we need for audiences to act. As presenters, we want to influence listeners to remember what was said and then act upon it when they leave. S.P.A.R.K. their attention by opening your next presentation in a memorable way. Use stories, pictures, analogies, references and laughter to capture their attention, cut through the noise and leave a lasting impression long after the interaction.