As a presenter, whether you’re addressing a small group or the entire company, opening remarks set the tone for the entire meeting. You want your team to listen with gears turning, not tuned out and uninterested.
At Arden Coaching, we realize that when all eyes are on you, getting your audience to engage can be intimidating. For helpful tips to structure your next talk, check out our post on public speaking below.
- Ask a Non-Confrontational Question
Starting your presentation with a question is a great way to draw in your audience and put them on the same page with you.
We say non-confrontational because you want to avoid singling out one person in your opening attention-getter. Asking one person to answer a question actually distracts the rest of the audience— what am I going to say if they call on me? type of distraction.
Instead, ask a group question that prompts raising hands. For example, “Raise your hand if you used all of your vacation days this year” could start a company-wide chat on a new PTO policy.
- Avoid Long Stories
Telling a quick story can get your group to instantly tune-in, setting you up for high-engagement over the course of your presentation. The average human attention span is less than half a minute. You can see how a long, drawn-out recount is going to lose its engagement potential fast.
You want to kick off your chat with something that will pique your audience’s interest while also diving into your subject matter quickly.
- Don’t Rely on PowerPoint
Most audience members would agree that as soon as the presenter turns around to face their visual aid, they might as well face the music. If you’ve prepped a PowerPoint to act as a visual during your presentation, make sure you’re using it right.
You’re the focus, not the slides. It’s far more engaging (at the start and throughout) for your audience to hear what you have to say from you. Know what you plan to cover ahead of time and load your slides to provide additional information, to run a video clip, show pictures, etc. in order to more effectively get your message across.
- Focus on the Bigger Picture
Rather than just jumping into the details of your meeting, you want to make sure that at some point during that beginning you remind your team of the purpose of your talk. “Remember our goal for the year to become the top seller in our division?”
Then continue with how your presentation is going to work toward that goal to give them an idea of what they can expect to learn. “Today, we’re going to discuss a process change that, once adopted, will help us reach more of our target audience in the ____ region.”
Laying this out before you start listing details is akin to a chapter overview. It gives you audience context and helps them get ready for what you’ll cover next.
Giving presentations not your strong suit? An executive coach can help you strengthen your communication skills for higher engagement. Contact Arden Coaching for a complimentary consultation to see how an executive coaching partnership could help you improve in the area of public speaking.