How to avoid making this major mistake during presentations

Don't make this mistake!

Don’t make the near-fatal mistake most people giving a presentation make! No, it’s not fatal for you, but it’s fatal to the success of your talk.

You’ve done all your planning, researching, writing, and rehearsing. You’ve communicated with the teacher, program organizer, your boss, or whoever is coordinating the event at which you’re speaking.

The big day has arrived; you feel good and have gone through your pre-talk psych up. You’re good to go. The host has just introduced you.

And now you stand up to start your compelling presentation with passion and energy.

“Hello, my name is Pete Smith. I work at ABC Company. I’m happy to be here. Thank you for that warm introduction. What a wonderful looking audience. Can you hear me in the back? Is this thing working?”

Congratulations! You’re halfway to losing your audience.

You call that passion and energy?

That’s not very compelling. Why tell them what they already know? Why check a microphone you checked during your preparation? But this is the way most people begin their presentations.

When a TV show fails to capture your attention in the first minute or two, you frequently turn the channel. Fortunately, audiences don’t get up and walk out of live presentations in the first two minutes. But they will switch off their attention very quickly if you don’t get them engaged.

The audience wants to know: WIIFM – What’s In It For Me?

Start with a challenging question, startling statistics, an interesting quote, or a surprising news headline. Any of these is better than the tired, worn opening audience members have heard time and time again.

In my time management program, the first thing out of my mouth is, “How would your life change if you had an extra hour every day?” 

This signals that I’m here to talk about them, not me, and my presentation will be personally valuable to each and every attendee. I have their attention. By opening this way, I’m promising I will not be wasting their time.

When starting a program this way, I’m also signaling to them that I’m prepared. I give them a sense that they’re about to embark on a journey. I intimate that I have discovered something that will be useful to them that they can apply in their lives.

Don’t be afraid to make it fun in the appropriate setting. I recently delivered a presentation on leadership to a small group and wanted to experiment with a new opening. I was introduced, stepped to the front of the room, looked at everyone…and walked out.

The audience, a fun group, started laughing and cracking jokes about why I could possibly be leaving the room.

I returned in a minute and the first thing I said was “Why didn’t anyone follow me?” We were off and running on our leadership discussion.

Audiences are tired of the same old boring presentations. Be bold. Be courageous. Be daring. Your audience will thank you for it. 


About Joe Serio

Dr. Joe Serio is a keynote speaker, trainer, and author who helps the people in your organization navigate resistance to change so they can move forward successfully.

2 Responses

  1. Bryan Gooch says:

    Good read and some great insights Joe. It spurred some thinking about my own public speaking and I’ll definitely put this to good use. Thx.


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