“Good morning! Thank you for joining me here today.” You have done this one before, right? And you already know it’s going to be a flop if you do it again. Would you like to try a better opener for your presentation? Would you like to share knowledge, inspire and entertain? With our 6 ways of kicking off your talk, we would like to help you start nicely, empower yourself and win the audience over. Have a good look at the following!
A PROBLEM TO SOLVE
63 percent of baby boomers are moving toward retirement without enough money put aside to provide for themselves for as long as they are going to live. We must address this problem and take action immediately to ensure that each person who retires will be able to live comfortably for the rest of his or her natural life.
Intriguing? Betcha! Engaging? Hell yeah! Brian Tracy puts forward a problem to be solved and makes it as personal and as universal as possible. He nails it nicely specifically because he provides this puzzling dilemma that will require the audience to think and get fully involved from the very beginning. Make your audience solve the problem you have presented, and they will surely follow the argument.
A SHOCKING STATEMENT
Jamie Oliver started his TED talk with these words: Sadly, in the next 18 minutes when I do our chat, four Americans that are alive will be dead from the food that they eat. Sunitha Krishnan, in turn, hit an even more unexpected note in her speech: I’m talking to you about the worst form of human rights violation, the third-largest organized crime, a $10 billion industry. I’m talking to you about modern-day slavery. Appalling and thought-provoking, these announcements leave plenty of room for discussion. And that’s the point! Your audience’s undivided attention is captured this way. Once shocked, it’s their curiosity that will bring them closer to you and let them stay longer.
A PROVOCATIVE QUESTION
Follow Simon Sinek on this one: How do you explain why some people are able to achieve things that seem impossible? James Hansen knows the trick, too: What do I know that would cause me, a reticent, Midwestern scientist, to get myself arrested in front of the White House protesting? And what would you do if you knew what I know? Make your audience think. Take a break and let them process the very question. In the best-case scenario, you might even get an answer you’d never come up with yourself. 🙂
Storytelling is king. And a buzzword, too. Done badly, it dilutes content and wastes time. Done well, it builds connections between you and your audience, stimulates memory, and facilitates understanding. Instead of explaining an argument with complex data and elaborate wording, good stories provide entertaining, educational and thought-provoking illustrations to problems that would otherwise go unnoticed. Take Danit Peleg’s personal account of how she 3D-printed herself a skirt for a conference and saved the day. Personal, individual, slightly dramatic, and crisp – that’s what her story is. And so is the opening of Shawn Achor’s talk on positive psychology, or Joshua Foer’s fascinating presentation on memory. Next time you are pitching for a new customer, drop the data for a moment, and tell them how something has changed – in the world, in business, in your life. Change is the key element of every story – show your audience that, and you will never talk alone.
AN UNEXPECTED TWIST
We are all aware of the power of words. Yet, we also know that actions speak louder than words. Take Mohammed Qahtani, 2015 World Champion of Public Speaking, for instance. What does he do? How does he kick off? By trying to light a cigarette before even opening his mouth, which by most audiences could be perceived as purely provocative if not outrageous. However, that’s also the reason why he is successful in capturing the audience’s attention straightaway and making them react verbally to what he’s planning to do. What he also achieves is make the participants reconsider their preconceived ideas. Once you make up your mind to apply this method, bear in mind a couple of significant points. Firstly, you have to act naturally. Secondly, the means has to be relevant to your speech. No gimmicky tricks needed. Additionally, when you shock your audience in a witty manner, it’ll make your speech memorable and remarkable. Last but not least, doing so will guarantee numerous references to your performance long after your feet have left the stage. Brave enough to give it a shot?
A POWERFUL QUOTE
Want to start in a credible way? Want to leave a lasting impression on your audience? Use a quotation that thrills. Just remember about the following rules:
- Make sure your quote is short and to the point.
- Make sure its meaning is clear, direct and supports your point of view.
- Use a credible source that you identify with.
- Avoid clichés that everyone’s heard.
Quotations might also be applied in a less conventional manner. You may well use one and add a twist to it, as in the following example: “We’ve all heard that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. But we need to remember that a journey to nowhere also starts with a single step”.
Summing up, most openings are obviously standard. Too standard. They either start off with a flat joke, a dull introduction or, worse, acknowledgements to all possible partners or sponsors. If you aim at losing your audience right away, you couldn’t kick off in a better way! However, should you crave for more (much more), challenge yourself to abandon formalities. Have a go at applying any of the above ways to start, and let us know how it went at: firstname.lastname@example.org.