Extraordinary Team Blog

Your Opening Gambit is Critical for Presentation Success

Posted by Kristin Arnold on June 5, 2010

Once upon a time, I was facilitating a strategic planning session sponsored by two senior executives at an undisclosed company. Each of the two executives opened the session in two distinct ways:

Executive #1 went to the front of the room and thanked the participants for coming.  He said he was excited about the work we were going to do.  Ho hum.  Nice, but boring.

Executive #2 went to the front of the room and started with a story about driving his car….to work? to their biggest client’s office? to the beach? to Disneyland?  He immediately engaged the participants by creating an analogy between his drive and the group’s strategic planning efforts.  The audience was much more interested in his remarks…they were different, they were personal, and all could see themselves driving to Disneyland!

It doesn’t take much effort to create an effective opener.  My longtime friend, Bob Heffley, President of QuadTech Marine Inc. was just telling me about his opening to a technical presentation about his innovative quadrimaran ship design.  He starts by saying “I have a 52 slide presentation.”  He then pauses to watch their faces while that sinks in.  Then Bob says, “But I’m only going to use 13 of them if that’s OK
with you.” It’s like commuting a death sentence. Go from Boring to Bravo!

Question: What do you do to engage the audience at the beginning of your presentation?