Memorizing the Opening of a Presentation

January 17, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Introduction, Myths Debunked, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Preparation, Presentation

greg 200x300Question: Why don’t you recommend memorizing the opening of a presentation?

Answer: The reason we don’t recommend memorizing the opening of a presentation is because it places your focus in the wrong place. When your presentation starts, you should be thinking about your listeners and engaging them in the conversation not recalling a script.

If you do memorize the beginning, you run these risks:

  • Sounding stilted or self-conscious
  • Appearing “put on” or as if you’re performing
  • Ignoring (or not noticing) what happened moments before you started speaking
  • Missing non-verbal cues from your listeners
  • Bulldozing
  • Failing to connect dots from earlier portions of the meeting

We’ve written several posts about best practices for introducing your presentation, so I won’t go into that here, we’ve also written about the pitfalls of too much practice.

The big thing to keep in mind is that everyday presentations need to feel like genuine conversations. Memorizing a script of any sort is in direct conflict with that and must be avoided.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President, Turpin Communication

The BEST Way to Start a Presentation

September 15, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Facilitation, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Introduction, Myths Debunked, Preparation, Presentation

QUESTION:
According to most public speaking experts, the first 30 seconds of a speech are extremely crucial for the success of a presentation. So, what’s the best way to start a presentation?

ANSWER:
We get this question a lot in our presentation skills workshops.  I also read similar questions on discussion boards on LinkedIn.  Unfortunately on LinkedIn, it seems that everyone’s a presentation expert.  That leads to a lot of bad advice.  No wonder presenters are confused about how to begin.

Typical “expert” responses include:

  • Show a video
  • Ask an open-ended question
  • Ask questions about their day so far
  • Have people introduce themselves to each other

While these ideas – if kept in a business context – aren’t terrible, they’re not enough on their own.  Ideas that are terrible:

Ahhhh… Enough with the gimmicks already
Participants in business presentations are not children.  They are adults who deserve better.

While I’ll agree that the first few moments of a presentation should get you started on the right foot, gimmicks don’t work.  Instead, work to engage your listeners in a meaningful, interesting, relevant dialogue.

Presentations are NOT theatre performances
We need to move away from the idea that a presenter’s job is to entertain or WOW or dazzle. Preparing a whiz-bang attention grabber ahead of time will always seem contrived.  Plus, it ignores the fact that something took place prior to your presentation.  Remember, the curtain isn’t going up.  The spotlights aren’t just now coming on.  When you walk to the front of the room you’re doing so in the context of whatever happened before.  You need to acknowledge that and then move into your presentation.

Presentations ARE Orderly Conversations
Every presenter’s job is to spark a conversation.  If you read this blog regularly, you know that we define presentations as Orderly Conversations.  “Orderly” because they need to be carefully organized and thought through.  “Conversations” because they need to feel spontaneous and interactive right from the start.

So, what IS the best way to start an orderly conversation?
Be in the moment, refer to the listeners’ current situation, and talk about how your presentation is going to address that issue. Examples:

Be in the moment:

  • “It’s been a long day (it’s hot, we’re behind schedule, etc.), so I’ll keep our discussion about X brief.”
  • “John just discussed ABC; I’m going to talk about XYZ.”
  • “Hope you all had a good evening, this morning we’re going to turn our focus toward…”

Refer to their current situation and your response to it:

  • “As we know, sales are sluggish, but today we’re going to talk about a new promotion that will turn things around.”
  • “We’re all busy and most of us feel overwhelmed. I’m here to talk about a new process to ease the pain.”
  • “A lot of discussion has been about X for some time now.  Today we’re going to address the issue so we can move on.”
  • “The bad news is X, the good news is Y, and that’s what we’re here to talk about today.”

Give them a reason to listen and participate
Taking this approach with your introduction will give your listeners a reason to participate in the conversation without resorting to manipulation.

What are your thoughts?

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication