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Better Presentations: A Strong Opening

Category: Business English Skills, Language Training | 2017-05-11

This is the first installment in a 4-part series on giving better presentations. Each week we examine a different aspect of presentations and help you improve your public speaking skills.

Your audience, in the weekly meeting or at a large conference, is most attentive at the beginning of your talk. Therefore, you have to catch their attention here if you hope to keep it for the entire presentation. There are several ways to do this. Most important of all, your language has to be clear, concise and captivating.

In the following post, I will give examples of key phrases to help you win over your audience. Let’s get started!

Key Opening Phrases for Better Presentations

The Greeting

Your first sentence is likely the most important thing you will say in your entire presentation. You can set the tone with a formal greeting, a friendly “hi” or somewhere in between. Know your audience and greet them in an appropriate tone for the presentation. Just as important as the words you use, your body language will help set the tone. Be loose and approachable. A genuine passion for speaking will come through loud and clear and it will be hard to resist. Here are some examples of greetings:

  • Good morning/afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Event.
  • On behalf of Event, I would like to thank you all for coming and showing your support for Theme.
  • Welcome to Event. I hope you all had a pleasant trip and are ready to go.

The Introduction

After welcoming the audience to the event or meeting, you have to let people know who you are. For internal business meetings, this may be as simple as stating your name and position. For larger events and conferences, be sure to highlight your company, position and possibly your responsibilities in the field. Some people add their contact information to a slide so the audience can get in touch after the presentation. Here are a few examples to use:

  • My name is John Taxpayer and I am VP of Sales at Company, where we (key responsibility).
  • Let me introduce myself, my name is John Taxpayer and I am responsible for X.
  • Before we begin, my name is John Taxpayer. I am VP of Sales at Company and have been working in Industry for 12 years.
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The Reason

The last example leads into the next key ingredient in a successful opening to a presentation. Often, you can easily combine these two steps. By giving some background on your experience in the field, you let the audience know why you were chosen to speak. Here, you have the opportunity to establish your credibility and position yourself as an expert on the topic. However, be sure not to come off sounding like a braggart. Give the audience only the information relevant to building trust and earning their respect. Take a look at a couple of examples:

  • As CEO of Company, I have had the privilege of working with dozens of industry experts and leaders in Field.
  • Because of my experiences in Field, I have been asked to speak with you about the current state of Industry.

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The Payoff

So, the audience now knows who you are and why you are speaking. Why should they care? At this point, you have to offer them a reason to listen to you. What will they take away from your presentation? What is the payoff for THEM?

You can do this in several different ways. The straightforward approach is often the easiest. Tell them what they will learn during the course of your talk. Another option, and my personal preference, is to give them a short story. In your story, set up a problem related to the theme and describe how they are affected by it. If you can impress upon them the importance of your topic, they will want to hear your solution. When done correctly, the audience will be all ears for the body of your presentation.

The Agenda

During the opening of your talk, you must set an agenda. And even more importantly, you absolutely must stick to it. People are happy to sit through an interesting presentation, but only until the end of the allotted time. As soon as you have reached the end of the time, the audience will get jumpy and stop paying attention.

Outline what you will discuss and how long it will take. Here, detail is not as important as structure. Lay it out clearly and give you audience the information they need. Here are some examples for you:

  • I have structured my presentation in three parts.
  • I would like to give you a brief outline of my presentation.
  • We will begin today by looking at topic A.
  • Following this, we will delve into the topic B.
  • Finally, we will end with a look at the results from C.

The Q & A

In my career, I have had the pleasure (and sometimes displeasure) to watch countless presentations. One thing that sets the better presentations apart from the weaker ones, is audience control. This is especially true in smaller groups. The audience needs to know when they can speak up and ask questions.

There is no right or wrong time to have the audience ask questions. It is simply a matter of personal preference. However, you, as the speaker, must set the tone early and establish the rules of the game. Some people want to answer questions at the end. Others are happy to engage the audience throughout the presentation. When time is short, tell people where to find you after the talk so they can approach you there. better presentations, MacPherson Language Institute

Whatever method you choose, be sure the structure is clear and that it fits with the timeline of the day. Be respectful of others and don’t let your Q & A period run into their time slot.

Putting It All Together

With these six guidelines, you can craft strong openings and deliver better presentations. Remember to honestly and passionately inform and engage your audience. They will reward you with their attention and be eager to learn by listening intently to your talk. Join me next week when I take a look at how to present the body of your message effectively.

What phrases do you use to deliver better presentations? Did I leave something out? Let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to join the monthly newsletter for more tips, articles and exclusive deals. Thanks for reading!

Cheers!

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