When I teach coach clients and speak at seminars, one of my jobs is to help people re-frame their thinking about presentations. Most people who aren’t trained in public speaking skills focus the bulk of their time on creating and honing the body of their presentation and they give their introductions and conclusions short shrift.
This is bad idea.
As we said a while back, first impressions are formed in seconds, not minutes. If you don’t get off to a power-packed start, all the effort you put into the body of your speech won’t be worth anything. You need to have a great introduction.
And I’m not talking about when someone introduces you to the audience, though that serves a purpose as well. I’m talking about the first part of your speech, where you introduce the subject you will be addressing. In fact, one of the most important parts of your speech is … how you begin.
Your introduction is where you establish your own credibility, your ethos. This is your opportunity to connect with the audience and establish a rapport. It is also the moment where you can grab their attention and, if executed properly pique their curiosity and interest. It’s also where you provide a road map of the presentation — a preview, where you “tell them what you’re going to tell them.” Your introduction is where the purpose of your speech comes out.
Don’t start out already behind
Think of it as a first date. You might be able to rescue yourself from a bad start, but you don’t want to start at a disadvantage. Similarly, when delivering a presentation, you only have a few moments to make that all-important first impression and if your introduction isn’t effective, you may lose your audience before you even get to the body of your speech.
Simply put, it is impossible to establish your credibility, connect with your audience, grab their attention and pique their curiosity if you don’t think about how you want to start off and what you’ll say to accomplish these goals. So good introductions are critical to the success of your presentation. You might want to review how to deliver a dramatic introduction, and we’ll continue dropping hints on some unexpected ways to spruce up your opener (like starting with a statistic or using questions to start you off). But to start with, just know how important your intro is — give it a LOT of attention.