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How do you start your presentation?

Have you noticed that most people start their presentations with, “Hello,” “Good Morning,” “Thank you for being here.” etc.? Followed by, “I want to tell you.” “ I am here today to…,” or “Bare with me as I figure out my (insert tech issue here).”

Yes, these are polite salutations that, perhaps, seem appropriate for the situation, maybe? But is this really the best way to get the attention of your audience? Do these salutations draw them in at the beginning? Do the disclaimers really help your message? Imagine if you went to a Broadway show and the show started with the actors getting into place, looking out at the audience and saying, “Hello, we’re going to perform for you now.” Or “We are here to tell you a story about a lion named Simba, thanks for being here, and please bare with us as there is a lot of puppetry in this show.” Where this might be a choice, it does not draw us in right away and it sounds apologetic. In fact, the redundancy of using common salutations makes it more difficult for us to differentiate your message from the masses. And when you are apologetic in the name of transparency, your audience will now have a more difficult time trusting you. Look, your audience is making a decision within 3 seconds as to whether or not your presentation will be a snooze fest, so ya better make those 3 seconds count.

I did this funny little presentation demo several years back for an AV company in Colorado that does major events. The objective was to highlight my services as a value add for their clients. Wanting to be creative with my approach, I decided to give a simple presentation on how to properly eat a hamburger. I had 5 slides, music and, of course, a hamburger. Instead of using words at the beginning of my presentation, I had someone deliver a big juicy hamburger on a silver tray and as the music was swelling in the background, I proudly took a big huge bite of the burger, chewed with a smile, took a sip of water, placed the rest of the burger back on the silver tray and proceeded with, “No mess! Why? Because I know how to eat a burger properly and pretty soon, so will you!” It got a laugh, people were drawn in and I had fun! Let’s repeat back that last part, yes? “I had fun!” I get that sometimes our material is not “fun,” but I still invite you to try.

Now that I just gave you an example of one way to start a presentation where I confidently continued without dental floss at the ready, I now invite you, to think about the last presentation you gave or one you may have on the horizon. Take a moment to brainstorm several different ways you could have or can start your presentation. Here are a few prompts to think about in your brainstorm to help you get started: can you start with a story? Can you use a prop? Is there an image you can show? Can you ask an open-ended question? Can you use a joke or use humor?

Remember to get all of your ideas out on paper or on your audio device with no judgment. This is a brainstorming phase and by judging too quickly, you may prevent yourself from discovering your best idea! Have fun!

Bonus: you can try this exercise for your ending as well. 💥


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