Opening is that crucial moment in which you reach your hand for the bird! So make sure to do it right.
But opening is more than that. You use the opening to get the audience’s attention, but also to build (or continue to build) rapport with the audience, introduce your topic, and prepare the audience for the rest of your presentation.
To achieve all that, start from:
1. Get the audience’s attention
A way to catch the attention is to be unexpected. Raise a question in your audience minds. Surprise them. Make them wonder. You can do that in many ways – using a story, quote, interesting picture… or just a strong, powerful sentence. The magic of being unexpected is not to follow a cookbook, but to be creative – so ignite you imagination, please.
2. Build (or continue to build) rapport with the audience
Use the time before beginning of the presentation for smalltalk and to mingle with the audience. This is also a great chance to learn something during your meet and greet with the audience you can bring up later in your presentation to demonstrate how well you understand your audience’s situation.
Build rapport. What is rapport? According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, rapport is “relation marked by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity.” In context of giving presentation, it means that audience has trust in you and is ready to openly listen to what you have to say, without resistance or spite. You can build rapport by demonstrating your credibility but also by presenting yourself like fun, interesting, open, warm human being that cares for his/her audience. You have also chance to notice how the audience reacts to you, and make a plan how to improve that (e.g. would you like more participation? more relaxation?). Pay attention to their reactions, and adapt.
3. Introduce your topic
Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Practical way to introduce the topic is to follow this format:
- what is the problem?
- why should they care?
- What is the solution?
4. Prepare the audience for the rest of your presentation
Show them what to expect and announce what you will be covering in this presentation. In opening, it is also very important to set the tone of the presentation – is it going to be serious or relaxed? Would you like audience to be interactive and share their opinions, or to just listen and pay attention? You can make this clear by telling them directly, but you may also show it by your tone and attitude.
Powerful opening in just one sentence, by Robin Williams:
Keeping the attention
Delivering an effective presentation means to both catch the attention of the audience, and keep that attention throughout the presentation. Many ideas and advices on how to do that can be found in a great book called “Made to stick”, in which Chip and Dan Heath give quite a lot of great tips on how to detain the attention of the audience. More info on this you can also find in the chapter about Memory hooks. If opening is there to open the minds of your audience and make them receptive, closing is the reason for which you wanted to make them receptive – the point of your whole story.
The closing of a presentation is completely opposite from the Opening – if you did a good job so far, the attention is yours. But your audience it about to leave. What is that you want them to take home? What do you want them to remember? Whatever it is, don’t forget to make it stick! You can achieve that by making it unexpected, or perhaps following up with a story or analogy. Closing is the whole reason why you were delivering this presentation! It is the summary of your whole message, moment to invite your audience to action, moment to put the exclamation mark on the end of your sentence!
For powerful closing – check out the example of “This is Sparta!” sentence from the movie “300”:
As you might have noticed, closing is The place in a presentation where you might wanna put in a bit of drama. Here you can find couple of fun examples of how to do that: http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/10-ways-to-end-your-speech/. It is also the right place to invite the audience to action – to motivate them, to propose the next steps, to give them a way in which they will continue to grow the seed that you planted with your presentation.
So how to do it right?
Great way of rounding up the presentation is to link opening (beginning) into closing (end). You can achieve that in many ways – by starting a story in the opening and finishing it in closing, or by asking a question in the opening and answer it while closing, to come back to the same quote from opening but explain it in a different way… again, the key is to be creative and put in some time into brainstorming and preparation.
For example of a powerful opening and closing (as well as the power of the unexpected), check Steve Jobs speech on Stanford Commencement:
For more great examples on how good presenters do it, be sure not to miss Al Pacino’s speech from “Any given Sunday” – attention getter from the beginning to the end, with powerful call to action in the end: