Hook your audience

“I’m here today to talk to you about standardization.”

That’s the way a Silicon Valley engineer in our training program COULD have started his presentation about the need to standardize. Instead, he took a different route.

“As I was doing some research for this presentation, I read that the city of Baltimore burnt to the ground in 1904. The tragedy is, it didn’t have to.

Firefighters from nearby DC, New York, and Virginia all responded, but weren’t able to help because their hose couplings wouldn’t fit on the Baltimore hydrants – no standard had yet been set. The firefighters helplessly watched as the city burned.

Like Baltimore, our organization will suffer if we don’t standardize our processes.”

A year later, I remember this story and it’s tie to standardization. Considering I see hundreds of presentations, that’s saying something!

It’s so easy to fall in to the rut of starting with, “I’m here to talk to you about [insert topic here]…” or “Thanks so much for being here, I know you’re all busy, so I really appreciate your time.” By the time you’re done with a Lovely-Bunch-of-Words opening like those, guess what? You’ve likely lost your audience. They’re thinking about their next meeting, to-do list, evening’s plans.

Hook them in with a SHARP to grab attention from the very start, and tie it to the point of your presentation. Meaning utilize any one or more of these:

  • Stories
  • Humor
  • Analogies
  • References & Quotes
  • Pictures & Visuals

Dive right in with something memorable instead of diluting your opener. What’s your story or client example? Can you think of an analogy that will help bring your idea or product to light? Audience members are often very visual, so are there any images you could use to make a strong opening point?

Again, a year later, I remember the engineer’s point about needing to standardize because of the story he told at the beginning. Can your audience remember something as vividly from the presentation you gave.. say, last week?

Please share some of your SHARPs and how you prepare your openers!

6 comments on “Hook your audience

  1. Great stuff, Ben!

    The Opening should grab the attention of the audience.

    The Law of Primacy and Recency states:
    The First and Last Things your audience hears and sees, will probably be remembered more than anything else in your presentation.

    Here’s one I use:
    “Picture this! Friday is our annual Open House and the president of the company wants each department to give a fifteen minute presentation. I have you scheduled for 1:15 – right after lunch!”

    Thanks for the Post!

  2. Thank you Julie! Glad you’re keeping the training and learnings top of mind by visiting our blog. Please keep on with the comments, and feel free to ask questions, too.

  3. Really appreciate your blog. I have taken your training, but it’s great to get the key points reinforced through your blog. I always find something useful to take away. Thanks for “being present”!

  4. Damon, that’s hilarious about the timing! Glad you could use the story, and that it went over so well. Keep up the good work – SHARPs stick with people, and because of it, they’re more likely to take action.

  5. Thanks Ben…your timing on this was impeccable. I had a presentation this morning that I was preparing last week and consistency and standardization was the theme. I shamelessly “borrowed” your story…:-0. Our number one producer liked it so much he wants to use it in his agency…a good buying signal…:-)