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The Art of the Opener

written by MO.com Subject Matter Resource Luke Jones

As the speaker appears on the stage, the audience quiets down. There is a very brief moment of silence as the audience waits for the speaker to utter the first words.

What follows is absolutely crucial.

Luke Jones - Big Fish Presentations

The speaker has his moment, his initial phrase, to establish credibility and his favor with his viewers. It is at this precise moment, when the audience is lingering, that the speaker must act.

He must do or say something that will guarantee an active awareness. He must tread carefully, or he can lose the audience and be left to pick up the pieces.

He must be prepared. He must master his confidence. He must fuse information with passion to enrich his audience with a unique message.

He must master the art of the opener.

How, you say?

There are a variety of tactics at your disposal that you can use to begin your presentation. In this post, we will explore these methods, and explain their usefulness.

If you want to start with a Question…

Asking a question in the first few seconds of your presentation allows your audience to ponder it, which is the first step in rallying them around you and your message. They are open in thought, and they now look to you for the answer. This, my friends, is credibility. Once you have allowed the crowd to think independently, the tone is set. You are telling them that you are not preaching, not trying to impose your will. You have given them independence and, in turn, have gained respect.

If you want to start with a Statistic…

Stats are a classic way to immediately draw attention to your cause. By giving people knowledge, (especially a unique tidbit) you have empowered them, and simultaneously gained credibility. Basically, you are shedding light on an issue, and the audience now sees and understands that you have some sort of expertise. You are valuable to them. People seek value, and listen to those who provide it to them. Give it to them! Also, find a way to make the statistics relevant and easily understandable for the audience. For example, Steve Jobs said the new Apple Ipod has 5GB. Cool Statistic bro. Then, he made it RELEVANT to his interested audience by saying this means “there can be 1,000 songs on this iPod.” The crowd goes wild. Remember to mention the statistic, what it means, then explain how is it relevant to the audience.

If you want to start off with a Joke…

Now, this is a tricky one. Humor can be extremely powerful, but risking an awful joke can tarnish your favor with listeners. Use this double-edged blade with caution. A hard and fast rule: If you doubt, don’t. People adore jokes, but they also despise the awkwardness that results from a bad one. You know what I’m talking about. Embarrassing yourself on stage leaves your audience embarrassed. We’ve all been there. However, if you know your joke is a winner, by all means, shell it out and reap the rewards. Tread softly, my friends.

If you want to start off with a Story…

This is a Big Fish favorite. We believe that stories are the key to a person’s heart. It can be one as simple as an experience you had the other day, but it can also be an in-depth tale with plot twists and overarching themes. A story is a story. Share an experience with your audience, and they will identify with your characters, and the storyteller (that’s you). When you unfold events in narrative form, you are allowing the recipients to place themselves within the story. Life is a series of stories. When you tell stories, you’re telling life, and everyone’s got one of those. People tend to make more decisions with emotion than logic. Connect with them and they’ll relate with you. Inspire! Make sure that you explain why you told the story and how it relates to your presentation.

If you want to start off with a Quote…

Inspirational, profound words from a well-known figure or an expert have instant credibility. A simple phrase, when placed in the correct context, is similar to a statistic in that it possesses value. Give your audience an insight from another, and they value the knowledge of the statement as well as the statement of the knowledge. In short, they value the information and the source as well. Be the source. However, a very common problem is that presenters use quotes near the beginning of their presentation that don’t relate to the message. Keep it on track. Be consistent.

As always, these are merely suggestions, and have been proven effective in their application. You may wield these weapons as you wish, for you have now mastered the art of the opener.

Now, let’s go back to that vital moment that we talked about earlier. You’re ready to begin. You have been given a crucial window of opportunity to win over your audience and share your message.

Take a deep breath, speaker. You have been given some tools, here. You, too, can harness the power of a killer introduction, and the subsequent thrilling presentation.

It may be nerve-racking to prepare and produce a great presentation, but it is truly worth your while. After all, here at Big Fish we believe that great presentations can change the world.

How will you open your next presentation?

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