Audiences Have A Well-Developed Defense Shield. Pic Trevino
The first few lines are where you win or lose your audience. A well-crafted opening lowers the audience defense shield and lets the rest of your message through.
It’s always tempting to open with stuff about yourself or your company and how clever and successful you are.
Audiences don’t care about that. They’re here to find out what’s in it for them, and how you can make their lives better in some way.
So get someone else to introduce you. They can do your cred-building for you, then you can launch straight into what the audience wants to hear.
Don’t Think You’re Above Being A Salesperson
Every presentation is selling something, even if you aren’t in the business world. An academic presentation, for example, is still selling your ideas and your intellectual standing, and the better you can sell it, the brighter your future.
Any half-decent salesperson knows that everything distils down to two core benefits: persuade them the product will:
1. Bring them pleasure, or
2. Take away pain
and you’re well on your way to closing the deal.
For the average presentation audience, pleasure comes in forms like increased sales or profits, a higher share price, a promotion, closing a sale, or winning admiration from their peers.
Taking away pain might be lowering costs, lessening staff turnover, avoiding lawsuits, increasing safety, not getting yelled at by the boss, or any kind of problem solving.
Which Benefit Works Best?
When in doubt, pain avoidance is usually the most compelling benefit. Doubly so in times beset by economic crisis and swine flu. (What next? I’m thinking of building an ark.) And double that again if the audience is from large companies or government, where risk minimization and blame avoidance are a way of life.
So when you plan the opening, think about what’s important in the everyday lives of your audience. What would help make it better or easier? Then open with that.
What Can They Identify With?
How you do that depends on your personal style. It might be in the form of a little story about how you overcame a problem they can identify with.
Or if you’re a direct sort of presenter, it might be as simple as: “In the next 30 minutes I’m going to show you how to stop stationery pilferage forever.”
Whatever approach you take, you should memorize it so you don’t have to break eye contact.
You might have noticed this post opens with a direct appeal to your self-interest, otherwise fickle readers will be off to check out Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter after paragraph 1. Thanks for reading this far.