Tuesday, April 27, 2010

High-Octane Presentations; Recommended Actions BEFORE You Start Speaking—Part II: Using the Introduction to Whet the Audience’s Appetite

First, something that I forgot to mention in Part I (post of March 21): while milling around the room, remember to flash a big smile – what I call the “all-32-teeth-showing-smile” --as you introduce yourself to everyone you meet. The reasons why such a smile works in your favor were outlined in my post of Dec. 31’09.

Now, to the subject of this post. In addition to the usual biographical stuff, have your introducer also say something that will whet the audience’s curiosity and thus build anticipation. This will help ensure that the moment you begin speaking, you will have everyone’s undivided attention--you will have conquered any and all distractions in the room, including BlackBerries bulging with fresh, unread emails.

So, for example, if your topic is on how to raise an organization’s productivity, and you are planning to share several steps that are surprisingly simple but highly effective, could you insert one of these imaginative suggestions in the introduction, as a teaser? And if you are a NASA astronaut giving a speech on what the soon-to-be-concluded space shuttle program has yielded to the taxpayer, you could stir the audience by having the introducer state one or two little known but fascinating facts--for instance, how something learned from the program will shape space flight for decades to come.

Two other items that ought to be included in the introduction that is going to be read (or circulated) prior to your taking the floor:
(i) If you are not a widely known authority on the subject, a mention of your credentials with regard to the topic.
(ii) Why this is the right time for the topic. So, if you were to going to speak on how to make your next flight more enjoyable, have the introducer mention a recent study that suggests flying will become increasingly stressful.

One caveat: Do not let the “anticipation-building passage” in the introduction border on hype or overpromise, nor let it dissipate the thunder of your presentation.

Part III of actions to take before you start speaking will be posted in about 10 days.

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