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Presentation Skills: Your Presentation Introduction

Posted by on November 14, 2011

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Your Presentation IntroductionLast time, we talked about organizing your presentation. Now you need an intro!

Your introduction can make or break your presentation. Sound drastic? It is! If your presentation introduction is good, you’ll capture your audience’s attention. If it’s weak, you could lose them in the first two minutes, and possibly never get them back. The introduction is the most critical piece in your presentation skills toolkit.

A good introduction contains the Three A’s:

  • Arouse Interest
  • Agenda
  • Action 

Arouse your audience’s interest right from the start. Make them want to listen to you. People come to your presentation with their minds on their concerns (that last phone call, the upcoming meeting). They may come in with a preconceived notion that this will be boring. You must capture their attention! Your “interest-arouser” should refer to their problems or concerns. The following list may assist you in developing an interest arouser:

  • outline an incident
  • ask for a show of hands
  • ask a question
  • make a promise
  • get them laughing
  • make a provocative statement
  • use an arresting statistic

Next, state your agenda. Audiences don’t like to be kept in the dark. It detracts from successful communication. Your agenda should be a clear, concise outline of the key points you will be making in your presentation. An agenda helps your audience listen to you because it keeps them organized.

Finally, your audience should be told what action you want them to take. Busy people become impatient with mystery stories. They want to know how the story will end before they take the time to listen. Always state your requested action (your recommendation) at the beginning of the presentation.This also helps them to be better listeners because they can evaluate what you are saying against the decision you want them to make.

Credentials are optional in an introduction. If this it the first time you are talking to this group, you should give them a brief description of your background. If you include your credentials in the introduction, you should do so right after the Interest Arouser and before the Agenda.

When you include the Three A’s in your introduction, you will have an effective introduction, one that captures your audience’s attention and tells them what you’re going to tell them.

Since the introduction is so critical to your presentation, it is recommended that you write it out word-for-word so you will know exactly what you are going to say. Once you have written it out, you can condense it into key words, or an outline. You should never read your introduction to the audience, but you should know exactly what you are going to say. There are two good reasons for this:

  1. The very beginning of your presentation is when you are the most nervous. Knowing exactly what you are going to say will alleviate some of the fear and help make you feel calmer.
  2. Initial impressions are lasting. You want the initial portion of your presentation to be outstanding.

Delivery Tips for the Introduction

Before you begin to speak, pause for three seconds. This gives you time to organize your thoughts, lets your audience get ready to listen, and makes you appear extremely confident.

  • Look down at your notes, look up and then begin to talk. Never begin talking while looking at your notes.
  • Outline your agenda on a visual aid. It helps clarify the points for your audience and keeps you and them organized.
  • Do not rush through the introduction. It is probably the first and only time your audience will hear these remarks.
  • Practice, practice, practice your introduction before the actual presentation.

Remember…good first impressions are critical to your success!

Please tune in next time to learn about Your Presentation Introduction.

Karen Holmes is a CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, based in the U.S. and delivering programs such as  Coaching, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.