When it comes to business presentations, consider this. When you recall a great presentation you experienced, do you recall how great the bullet points were? Or how those technically challenging and crowded slides really did it for you? Unlikely, right? You’re much more likely to remember great storytelling. Here is how to start a presentation to ensure your audience is with you every step of the way.
Let’s face it.
Business presentations tend to strike dread in the hearts of most people, and it’s not just for those in the audience. It’s often the case for the presenter, too.
On either side we’re fearful of being bored and being boring.
For the presenter, part of alleviating those fears is making sure we sound interesting and look interested in what we’re talking about. (That’s where a good executive presence coach comes in.)
But body language and a resonant, clear voice isn’t the be-all and end-all of presenting.
Think for a moment.
What do people actually like listening to?
The answer is, they like listening to a good story.
It’s pretty simple. All of us love stories.
We are programmed at a deep level from childhood to love hearing stories about other people’s experiences, and the more we can bring great storytelling into our business presentations and communications, the more effective we will be.
1. How to Start a Presentation: The Opening Story
For your business presentation, you need to hook ’em from the get-go!
Stories are powerful because they hold people’s attention. Like the stories Benjamin Zander or Joe Landolina use to begin their speeches, they occur in a specific time and place and therefore hold our attention and feed our imaginations.
Stories ask us to imagine being in that time and place with the speaker.
Stories bring drama, mystery, tension, or surprise.
So, how do you begin?
Start by setting the stage and introduce the situation, then there’s a problem that arises that needs to be solved, and then the resolution to the problem. A beginning, a middle, and an end.
Every story has these and so, too, does every good presentation or speech.
Take a minute to watch these two clips.
2. How to Start a Presentation: Paint The Picture
When you’re thinking about how to start a presentation, remember this: audiences love to identify with the speakers.
We trust what we know and we trust what is familiar to us, so laying out the landscape at the beginning with a statement or fact that we can all relate to helps to create an instant rapport with the audience.
The more the audience can use their imagination and see the story, the more they invest in what you’re talking about, so give them a bit of detail to set the stage. Use statements we can all identify with.
Two quick examples:
We all know what it’s like to be rushing because we’re late…
It’s always a push in the 11th hour of a deadline…
3. How to Start a Presentation: Your Mission Is…
The picture that the speaker paints could also be, for instance, a problem.
Such as: “If we don’t diversify in our social media strategies, this company is going to fail in 2 years.”
That’s a powerful picture to paint and grabs people right away.
This great storytelling technique immediately creates credibility because it shows you’re familiar with the issues.
It also creates anxiety, and therefore emotional and intellectual appeal.
Because now that we’ve heard the bad news, we automatically start searching for solutions.
Next, now that you’ve hooked your audience, here’s how to keep going in a winning vein!
4. Show Vulnerability
Never underestimate the power of personal identification.
As we said before, people trust what is familiar to them and what could be more familiar than humour, poignancy, or adversity. (Example: Watch Hyeonseo Lee’s Ted talk, My Escape from North Korea)
There’s something satisfyingly voyeuristic about hearing other people’s tales of woe, embarrassment, or adventure.
When we reveal something personal about ourselves (within reason, of course, we don’t want to be baring our souls!), we become vulnerable and open to our audience and their judgements.
This is an invitation for them to think, ‘Oh, man, that happened to me, too!’
And in that moment we all become human together. And it is our humanness that ultimately keeps us interested.
The speaker could be Barack Obama but when he’s talking about how he grew up, the neighbourhood he lived in, and his parents’ struggles, even though he was President of The United States and his status is much higher than ours, we can all still relate to those details.
5. Unleash Your Creativity
Above all, be open to being creative and thinking outside the box.
John Bohannon is a science writer who uses dance instead of PowerPoint to illustrate new laser and molecular technology ideas.
Not only does this create compelling and captivating viewing but it simplifies complex concepts, tells a visual story, and is irresistibly memorable.
We won’t all be getting a dance company up on stage with us to illustrate our story but it just shows what you can do when you let yourself be inspired and use your imagination.
Have a look:
6. Give the presentation that YOU want to experience
Ask yourself what kind of presentation would hold YOUR attention and then map out your story, include personal anecdotes, and allow yourself to be moved by the power and logic of the story you’re telling.
Tell yourself this, because it’s true.
You’re in a room full of human beings all of whom have the same insecurities, challenges, and desires that we all have.
So grab them, keep them, and then bring it home.
Finally, you’ve done everything right. Now you need to finish!
7. How to Finish a Presentation: The Closing Remarks
If you’ve done all that, you’ll have hooked them, introduced tension, given them something to relate to.
Before you finish, though, it’s time to give them a bit of release.
When you’re wrapping things up at the end of a talk, remind the audience of the problems they face, and then give them some solutions.
You can also suggest actions to take to move towards solutions or how to think differently to solve their problems.
But above all, make sure you’ve told given them some great storytelling. You, and they, will be glad you did.
There you have it. Seven tips to delivering the perfect business presentation.
For a quick recap:
- Start by setting the stage and introducing the situation
- Lay out the landscape with a statement or fact everyone can relate to
- Outline one possible solution (which you’ll go through in the key points of your talk)
- Be your vulnerable self (because everyone before you has the same insecurities)
- Allow your imagination to run loose
- Think about the presentation that would capture YOUR attention
- Close with a quick recap (a bit like I’m doing right here!)
ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland.
We offer a range of voice and communications programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals. Our packages are tailored for both individual and corporate level. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives.
Contact us for details by filling out this form, or call or email us via the details below.
Telephone:- +353 1 9696056
ConfidentSpeak is a specialist S.T.E.M Communications & Coaching Consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives at home and abroad. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.