What is the Secret to Starting Every Presentation?

I was at a conference recently with what promised to be a great keynote speaker. The topic was of interest to me and the description in the brochure suggested that it could certainly deliver some great nuggets to take away.

Unfortunately, it only took about five minutes for me to realize that the product would probably not deliver as promised. Within those five minutes the speaker had not caught my attention or interest and I had completely lost interest.

Very few of us are keynote speakers but many of us are faced with presenting to an audience during our careers. This isn’t a favorite moment for many and certainly can provide seriously stressful moments both before and during delivery. While many things could go wrong, there is a secret to giving you a leg up as you present.  I call it the “You Pop”.

This is the art and the science of using the first few minutes of your presentation to ensure that you grab the audience’s attention immediately.  You have 1-3 minutes to grab their attention. If you fail at this first stage of your session you are in real trouble.  I call this my “You Pop”.

First of all, let’s talk about what not to do in the first few minutes. Do not:

  • introduce yourself or talk about yourself
  • deal with any administrative issues like washroom location, fire exits or any other logistics
  • throw out any rhetorical questions like ”how is everyone today?”
  • Try to be funny when it really isn’t a natural thing for you

The objective of the first few minutes of any presentation or meeting is to grab the attention of your audience.  To do this, you need to change their current state.  Change an assumption, a belief, their comfort level, their happiness level or even, if possible, their physical state. Shock them, frighten them or challenge them.  Make them cry, laugh, squirm or jump up and down in delight.  All of these things will certainly change their current state. 

I will start all of my presentations with something very strange, shocking, scary or challenging.  I have even started some of my sessions with a very funny but short video to really grab their attention. 

Once you have their attention, then you can start your presentation like everyone else. Go over the logistics if necessary, spend time on your background if appropriate, ask them question(s) to get that ‘audience response’ thing going if it fits.

When you start without the ‘You Pop’ you are not only just like every other trainer, keynote speaker, salesperson or meeting chair but you also run the risk of losing me very quickly. All of the rhetorical questions, logistics stuff and even the background on you are boring, totally disconnected to the real message and purpose for the gathering and frankly, as I’m hoping you understand by now, a terrible and risky way to start any presentation.

Yes, there is a secret to starting every presentation. Do this well and your chances of success are dramatically greater. Grab their attention and they are all yours. Try it – you will be pleasantly surprised.

And if you do this already… please share!


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