End of year means holiday time, and also the arrival of Oscar film season, too. Consider your favorite films, and you know that movies use great openings to hook in viewers. So too, stand out presenters craft talk openings to engage audiences and hook them in.
Whether you are prepping a quick project update to your group, for an all hands meeting or conference talk, here are 5 tips to hook ‘em in and keep them listening:
1. Don’t Squander Precious Real Estate
Research shows that audiences pay the MOST attention at the start of your talk. Avoid the dull, overdone, cliché of, “Hi, my name is ___, and I’m here to talk to you about ___.” Your name was likely on the title slide or the agenda, so they already got it. Simply telling them what you’re going to talk about lacks sparkle too. Challenge yourself to find a fresher, more creative way to begin.
2. Ask a Question = Engage from the Start
Rather than rattle off a bunch of dry data, how about being interactive to pull them in? You can ask a Polling Question and gather information about the audience, to help you gauge how to continue with your content. Rhetorical questions allow people to reflect on an issue as you then lead them into the talk.
3. Startling Statistic
A surprising, powerful or personal statistic can grab an audience’s attention fast. It will resonate with the audience and get your message across immediately. Consider statistics from your industry or a study that will be relevant, maybe even a surprise. You’ll quickly pull people into your talk.
4. Invisible Elephants
Sometimes you must present bad news or a serious situation. People in the audience may have been feeling stressed or upset about an event or aspect of a project or process. A powerful opening names that invisible elephant up front. You’ll diffuse tension, build credibility, and help people quickly trust and feel rapport with you as the talk begins.
In general, stories can liven up data, generate more interest and make content more “sticky” or memorable. They also help you stand apart from the crowd. Do you use an anecdote, customer story or analogy during the rest of your talk? Consider weaving it in even earlier, in the opening. You might even thread it through to the end. Just be sure to be concise and crisp. This works great for peers and general audiences. And remember: executive audiences prefer data over stories.
Watching great films this holiday season can inspire you to the discipline of crafting great openings for your own talks. If you like reading, notice the very first lines in newspaper and magazine articles, or of novels. Whatever you do, avoid the cliché and overdone, and experiment with more engaging starts.
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