Hook the Audience
The 3 Ts provide a structure for your presentation. However, structure alone doesn't bring a presentation to life. Before you present your summary statements and details of your speech, you need to grab your audience's attention with a good opening. This same tactic is used in many types of media. In television, for example, producers like to present a teaser before a program begins. This is something that hooks the viewers so they will keep watching. If it's a sitcom, the teaser may be a very funny scene from the story. If it's an adventure series, the teaser may be several action scenes from the show. Producers know that if viewers aren't hooked quickly, they may decide to channel surf. Your audience is the same way. You have to hook their attention very quickly or they may tune out.
You can never be a great presenter without understanding and mastering strong openings. - Frank Paolo in How to Make a Great Presentation in 2 Hours -
Stories and anecdotes have proven to be good openings. A startling piece of information or a newspaper headline is also an attention grabber. Your opening should be something that will grab the interest of your listeners, but it must also be something directly related to your purpose for speaking. Gerald is the assistant manager of an electronics store in a shopping mall. He began a talk to his employees this way:
Recently, I went to a store to buy some inline skates. After looking at several varieties, I had a few questions. I waited for a salesperson to come over and help me. There were very few people in the store, but I noticed that none of the three salespeople tried to help any of them. They stood in a corner talking to each other. Finally, I went over to see if I could get some help. "Excuse me," I said. "Could you answer some questions for me about your in-line skates?"
One of the salespeople glared at me. "Look, you're interrupting an important discussion here," she said. "Don't be in such a hurry. We'll get to you in a few minutes." Well, I wasn't about to wait until she was ready. I turned around and walked out of the store. I'm telling you this story because it illustrates the purpose of my talk today: If we don't want to lose customers, we must learn how to satisfy them. And I want to explain how we do that.
Gerald began his talk with a personal anecdote that was closely tied to his purpose. The anecdote hooked his listeners. Then he could make an easy transition to his summary sentences.
Gerald also might have started his presentation this way: According to a recent survey, 53 percent of consumers said they would be shopping less this year, and 30 percent said they expect to spend less money shopping. What this means for us is that we have to do everything possible to hold on to our customers. To do that, we must always try to satisfy them. And in this talk I want to explain how we do that. In this case, Gerald opened with a startling statistic that no one had probably heard before. Then he tied it directly to the purpose of his presentation.
The Internet is an excellent place to find anecdotes on everything from wax museums to medical bloopers. Try anecdotage.com (http://www.anecdotage.com), which labels itself as the site with anecdotes from Gates to Yeats.
Open with a joke?
Carol was giving a talk at parents' night in her school. She decided to begin with a joke - one that most of her friends found very funny. Unfortunately, she forgot that an audience of adults might be quite different from a group of her friends. As she completed the joke, Carol waited for everyone to laugh. Instead, there was stony silence. No one in the audience reacted. The joke had been a complete dud. Even worse, Carol had made a negative impression right from the beginning of her talk. As a result, no one in the audience was inclined to listen very closely to the rest of what she was saying.
The benefits of humor
Although it is risky, humor is an effective tool if you can perfect it. Humor does many things: relaxes the audience makes your speech more enjoyable negates any hostility that may be present overcomes introductions that may be overly flattering lets the audience know that you don't take yourself too seriously lightens up a dry subject her idea of what was funny wasn't the same as her audience's. Opening with an anecdote, an example, or an interesting fact is usually much more effective.
Completing your presentation
Talks don't have to be long to be effective. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is a perfect example - it is perhaps the most memorable speech ever delivered by an American leader, and it only lasted a few minutes. The best talks should be concise as well as compelling. This means that the body, like the introduction, should contain interesting anecdotes and examples. These things help bring your ideas to life and hold the attention of your audience. But always make sure that any information you present strengthens the purpose of your talk and supports your summary sentences. Finally, repeat your purpose at the close of your talk. And if you can, illustrate it with an interesting story from your own experience or from something you've read. The more concrete and specific you can make a talk, the more likely your audience is to remember it. FACT Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is only 268 words long. The best talks should be concise as well as compelling.