Meyer London speaking

If you go to work every day the odds are that regardless of your position you are likely to have to attend some form of presentation from time to time. Many of us also face the regular challenge of having to give them and having been on the receiving end ourselves we all know that there really is nothing worse than a boring one.

We also know that we can tell within the first 60 seconds whether or not we will need to discreetly pull our phones out of our pockets to check our emails. We don’t pay attention to boring things let alone lifeless speakers, so our first task is to make our audience curious and to make a connection.

Here are 6 real openers that I have used to good effect to open a presentation skills workshop which you may be able to take something from and adapt for your next appearance.

1) A lesson learned

My wife and I were invited to sit with our son at a special assembly on his very first day at school. After the Head teacher spoke for 5 minutes our son looked up at us with his hand on his forehead and whispered, “ this story is giving me a headache, when does it finish?” He was only 5 of course but that day we both learned a very important lesson; it’s very easy for a speaker to disengage with an audience very quickly and even give them a ‘headache’.

Great speakers know how to capture and hold an audience’s attention right from the start and today I have some ideas to share with you about how you can do that too.

2) A powerful quote

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

We live in a time of change and it’s the great speakers who are leading that change.

3) A thought interrupt

Research suggests that as human beings we have between 50-80 thousand thoughts every day, that many of those are recycled repetitive thoughts and that a great deal of them are negative. As speakers that presents a significant challenge for both us and our audience, but the mindful presenter knows what it takes to connect with an audience and stay connected.

4) A question to ponder

I’d like each of you to recall in your mind the very last presentation you personally attended. As you do I’d like you to raise your hand if you remember something from that presentation that you believe made a tangible difference to your personal or professional life.

5) Challenge the status quo

When it comes to good advice for giving a presentation I’m willing to bet that at some point in the past some of you were told to ‘just be yourself’.

That’s bad advice.

What they should have said was ‘be your best self’. There really is a difference, let me explain…

6) Start with a story

I first went to Disney World in Florida at the age of 20. That was 30 years ago. As my brother and I were queuing to ride Space Mountain we noticed a family just in front of us where the father was carrying what looked like a small suitcase onto the ride. We’d been on the ride before so we both knew there was no way that he and that huge case would fit into the tiny seat so we couldn’t help but wonder why on earth he was carrying it with him.

As we looked much closer we realised it wasn’t a suitcase at all, it was a mobile phone.

Now keep in mind that was 30 years ago, there was nothing mobile or portable about those phones at all. This is my phone today, not only is it a fraction of the size but it holds my entire music collection and can help me to find my way around anywhere in the world.

The world has changed a great deal in the last 30 years, but what has really changed when it comes to presenting and public speaking?

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