Do Your Presentations Open With a POP?

You have 2 minutes to catch my attention. If you fail, you have lost not just me, but most of your audience.


Many years ago, as a sales representative with Symantec, I was taught that every presentation should POP open. We called it the UPOP.  (Origin: Xerox Sales Presentations Skills UPPOPR)


Today, as a professional speaker, I try to follow that advice each time I step up to the stage.


speakingWhether you are a professional speaker, a sales representative, a speaker at a wedding or a leader with a message to the troops, you need to open with a bang.  Anyone stepping in front of an audience of any size should understand this.  You have 2 minutes…. go!


The June 29, 2015 issue of The Globe and Mail contains a great article on this tool. The target in this article is the pitch to publishers at a writer’s conference.  The proposed time limit in this article is just 60 seconds!


So how do we POP open?


The basic idea is to leave the ‘Good morning and welcome’ or ‘The washrooms are down the hall’ or ‘I am not a great speaker but here we go…” to the 3rd or 4th minute in.


Start with a bold statement that connects everyone to your message.  Pull them in immediately:


“Today, 40 rhinos will die at the hands of illegal poachers – and this is just in the country of South Africa alone.  That number could be 10 times larger in all of Africa.  If we don’t deal with this issue immediately, our rhino population will be gone in 10 years.”


“Without good presentation skills, you will NEVER be accepted as a senior leader in your organization.”


“75% of all strategic plans fail in the execution process”


Change their current state or current beliefs.  Make them uncomfortable.  Get them worried.   Make them laugh!


Then offer them some comfort that your time together will deal with the issue:


“Today I will offer you a way that we, as a community of people who care, can save these wonderful creatures.  (The Rhinos – not the leaders!)”


“Today, I will show you how you can become a great speaker”


“The key to strategy execution is …”


As you look up to the audience, I assure you, you now have their attention.   Let’s go.


NOW you can introduce yourself, provide a guide to the journey and get on with it:


“Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen.   I am David Barrett.  Over the next hour we are going to talk about… .   I will provide an e-copy of this presentation at the end of the session.  I would ask that you hold all questions until the end.  I will finish in 40 minutes which should give us ample time for Q&A.”


That whole section is boring but necessary in most circumstances.  But leave it alone until you POP the audience.


Maybe you are the best-man or maid-of-honour at a wedding this summer and need to give a killer speech. Don’t provide background and history right up front.  Don’t get mushy yet.  You have less than 1 minute to make the audience laugh – to get them on side.  Something else happens here by-the-way, other than POP’ing them and getting them in your court.  You just bought yourself 15-30 seconds to take a deep breath and relax. Right up front.


The other method I often use to POP the audience is via video.  I will embed a video into the front end of my presentation – right into slide #2.  The first slide is my header: title, name, organization and maybe date.  The moment I advance the slide the video kicks in.  If I am looking for goosebumps, it is loud and exciting. If I am looking for a connection, it is relevant.


So the next time you step up the podium or rise at the board table – POP them!! They will be putty in your hands until you say … “Thank you, thank you very much”.


Images provided courtesy of


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