How to give a presentation: (4) introductions

One of the services that FJWilson Talent Services offers is presentation training. Here our presentation coach, Anthony Haynes, gives the fourth in a series of concise, practical, tips.

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Naturally, in a presentation the introduction is critical for determining whether the speaker is likely to retain the audience’s interest. So consider what I suggest is the method used by most speakers, which is to begin by saying, ‘OK, let me tell you a little bit about myself/us’ (where ‘us’ = the business or the organisation that the speaker represents).

Does each member of the audience think, ‘Oh, good! I like to listen to self-indulgence/corporate blah’. No, each of them begins to think about what they need to pick up at the shop on the way back from work — or turns their attention to their smart phones to see what messages they have. Their attention has been dissipated at a stroke.

What should you do instead?

First, begin with a formal phrase. For example, ‘Ladies and gentlemen’ or ‘Good morning’. Last year I attended the Cambridge Festival of Classics. I listened to several speakers. All bar one dispensed with formality by beginning with a phrase such as ‘OK’ or ‘Right’. Only one gave the audience the courtesy of a formal opening. The advantage of such courtesy is that it indicates respect for the audience — who are then more likely to respond with respect for the speaker.

Second, begin to tell a story. A ‘Once upon a time’ strategy is the one that an audience is least likely to resist. Once the story is under way, then you can work in information about yourself or your organisation as a functional component of the story.  For example, if you want to communicate that you have expertise in, say, dealing with public sector organisations, show as part of the story how that expertise enabled you to think or do something that someone without that expertise could not.

Next in the series: how to structure a presentation as a story.


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