I just heard it from a presentation leaking out the door across the hall from me. It’s a common thread of mediocrity. People open with a weak plea for the audience’s attention, giving doubt that they really believe in their message. It has a thousand variants, but sounds something like, “I hope you get something out of my talk” or “bear with me and we’ll get through this as quickly as we can.” That’s the best we, the audience, can hope for?! Get something out of your talk? Survive? Stay awake? Aim higher!
Speakers should give their audiences a reason to listen. This should occur up front and early. Everyone walks in wondering if y0u have something valuable to say. If your opening request or claim of value to your audience is weak, you’ve given them no motivation to continue (or worse, a reason to quit listening or leave). Instead of a weak opening promise, put some teeth to it. For example:
- “Today we will see three things that hold most entrepreneurs back. As you listen today, examine your own methods and pick the one that is creating your biggest problem. Then listen for the solution will revolutionize your business.”
- “A wise man shared the secret to a happy marriage with me. I’m going to do what he did — pass it on for free. This tip has saved thousands of marriages, and it is likely you need to implement it to save yours.”
- “Today we look back at the last year. But we also look forward to the new year. I want you to decide from the numbers today what you think our biggest win was last year, and what you think we should focus on this coming year. We’ll get your input, and then make sure we have the motivation and plans to make 2012 the best year yet.”
These are just examples, but the tone of each is “you’ll get something of value for your time today.” We don’t “hope” or “guess” or “bear with you”. We make a conscious decision to join you. And that makes a HUGE difference to how a presenter is perceived, and thus what impact they have on their audience.
Open with a strong call to action that gives your audience a reason to listen. Aim High.