Compelling Openings

By: David Greenberg
Posted: 11/15/2007

Compelling Openings

"Thank you for having me here. It's great to be here in (fill-in-the-blank).
Blah, blah, blah..."

How do you start your presentations? Today's audiences are often
preoccupied by other thoughts, text messages, emails, etc. As a
speaker, you must find creative ways to get people to focus on you
and your message. Here are some ways to deliver a compelling opening:

1. Open with a relevant story.
Few people can resist listening to a well-told relevant story. Let
the first words out of your mouth be something like these:
- "Six weeks ago I experienced something I thought would never
happen in my life..."
- "While at the dry cleaner yesterday, the woman at the counter said
something to me that made me look at our business in a new light..."
- "I wish you could have been there. It was my first day on the job..."

2. Ask an intriguing question.
Questions are one of the simplest and most effective ways to gain
attention. Here are a few examples:
- "We surveyed 300 of our best customers. What do you think they
told us was their number one...?"
- "What would it take for you to double your...?"
- "What impact is ______ having on your...?"
- "What motivates you to do your best work?"
- "What do you think my teenage son told me when I showed him the
PowerPoint presentation I intended to show you today?"

3. Survey the room.
This is a great way to energize the audience and get them focused.
Here's an example. Say something like, "Which is a better motivator --
money or job satisfaction? If you feel the answer is money, please stand
and shout out 'money!'. Thank you. You may be seated. If you feel the
answer is job satisfaction, please stand and shout out 'satisfaction!'.
Thank you. You may be seated." Now lead into your discussion about
employee morale.

These are just a few ways to get your presentation going. As you create
your opening, ask yourself this question: "Would this cause someone on
a Blackberry to turn it off and listen?" Remember, if you don't have their
attention from the beginning, it's an uphill battle. Open strong and set
yourself apart from the crowd.

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