No, I’m not talking about the drink. And yes, I am against violence in the workplace or anywhere else. But I’m also against imposing unnecessary boredom on people and alienating your audience within the first minute of your presentation.
If you want people to hear what you have to say, you need to get their attention and connect with them from the very beginning. Forget about lengthy, formal introductions and the traditional opening lines. Instead, plunge right in! Garr Reynolds in his excellent book “The Naked Presenter”, writes about opening with P.U.N.C.H. The acronym stands for Personal, Unexpected, Novel, Challenging, Humorous. To open your presentation with an impact, include at least one of the PUNCH elements. Here are some ideas:
P as in Personal
Being personal does not mean showing off your long CV or boasting about your achievements. Being personal means sharing a bit of yourself. Tell the audience why you are fascinated by this subject. Share with them what your grandmother/dog/child/boss has taught you about it. Tell a personal story about your first experience/mistake/aha-moment related to your presentation.
U as in Unexpected
Most people in your audience have attended hundreds or more presentations in their lives. To wake up their numb ears and minds and spark their interest, you will need to surprise them. You can open with a shocking statistic, a though-provoking quote, or an intriguing picture. You may consider using a prop – a physical object that may not have an apparent link to your subject, but works as a metaphor and a visual focus point for your audience.
N as in Novel
What can you show or tell the audience that they have never seen or heard before? A brand new study? New insights into a problem? Unexpected users or ways of using your products or services?
C as in Challenging
Think of ways to challenge people intellectually and emotionally. Get them thinking by asking them to imagine a future, positive scenario. “Imagine if we could travel by the speed of light..”. Ask them to place themselves in somebody else’s shoes to appreciate a problem. “Imagine that you have no electricity, no running water, and no access to healthcare.” Or involve them by asking a question or running a quick poll. “Show me with your fingers: On a scale from 1-10, how important is this topic to you?”
H as in Humorous
Laughter is contagious and helps to relax both the audience and the speaker. No need to be a comedian or to learn silly jokes. Pointing out an ironic or counter-intuitive fact may be enough to make people laugh. Images are a great way of conveying humor. Personal stories that reveal a mistake or a human weakness are other good ways of bringing out that releasing smile.