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!