Good presentations grab the audience by the jugular and don’t let go! In the marketing book Selling the Invisible, the author sites a very interesting fruit study that can teach us a key lesson about preparing your presentations. The study found that when people are shown a series of fruit like an apple, banana, peach, pear, and pomegranate for just a few seconds, they are most likely to remember the first and the last fruit only.
The fruits in the middle get forgotten. Remember this the next time you are preparing to speak. When you structure your presentations make sure you have an opening and closing that grabs the audience. In journalism it is called, “not burying the lead”. The headline should be up front and not buried on the back of page 9b. Get the main point out there early.
As a coach to leaders, I see leaders make this mistake all the time. An example of this is when one leader needed to address his employee about his tardiness. The request to come in on time was buried somewhere between a “I don’t want you to think this is a big deal” and a “I’m not upset”. The result was that the employee continued to come in late. In accordance to the “fruit theory”, there is no wonder. The employee remembered the first “It’s not a big deal.” and the last “I’m not upset.” that his employer said to him. We reworked my client’s conversation so that he had an opening and closing that reinforced his real point. The result was that the employee stopped coming in late. Do you need to know what to say the next time you need to get your point across?
Here are five ways to open and close that are sure to grab one’s attention:
1. Be inspirational.
Opening or closing with an inspirational quote gets the audience thinking about the topic of your presentation. It lends credibility to you presentation to quote someone influential.
2. Be shocking.
Say something unexpected. You have to be careful with this one though. You have to know you audience and watch your word choice, so you don’t offend them. Carol Burnett did this well when she belted out that she was shy for a bit in her show. It was shocking because she was yelling about her shyness.
3. Be sincere.
Show some vulnerability and transparency. People like to see the presenter as human. Don’t try to be Liberace when you are more like Eeyore and vice versa. Your message will always be better received if the audience senses your sincerity.
4. Be humorous
Laughter puts people at ease. Choose humorous stories that are appropriate and relevant to your topic and audience.
5. Be controversial
Present an argument that goes against the conventional thinking. In 2008 when people were seeing gas prices reach 2.99/gallon for the first time, I started my presentation on growing together as a family with, “Here is why 3 bucks a gallon for gas is good for you.” Be careful of your audience when choosing your controversial approach.
The opening and closing of your presentation is like an after taste. Make sure when your audience burps after feasting on your presentation, it tastes good!