Standing ovation - US ArmyThe worst introduction I’ve ever heard: “I’d like you all to stand-up. Now clap. You’ve given me a standing ovation and now I have to earn it.”

Guess what? The speaker didn’t earn the standing O she forced me to give. In fact, she turned me off immediately. I spent more time play Bejeweled on my phone than listening to her.

The most precious gift you receive as a speaker is the audience’s attention. Research shows that audience remember most what they hear FIRST. (This is called the primacy effect for you theory nerds). Just like dandruff shampoo mogul’s, Head and Shoulders, reminds us – “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

The problem is that most introductions suck because their challenging to craft. It’s the time where you are most nervous in your speech and couple that with the added pressure of needing to shine, it sets you up for failure.

Purpose of an introduction

An introduction needs to accomplish the following:

  1. Capture your audience’s attention
  2. Build rapport with the audience (also know as establishing your credibility or showing goodwill)
  3. Overview of where you are going in your presentation (remember the sexy organization post this is when your preview that juicy goodness).

Here’s the trick you need to accomplish these goals in a short amount of time. The rule of thumb is that an introduction should be less than 10% of your total speech.

The trick is to avoid the time sucks and the pitfalls.

5 ways to blow your intro

Last year I wrote a series of articles about openers that lose your audiences in attention is less 30 seconds. Here are 5 openings to avoid:

  • The dictionary defines – if I wanted to know how the dictionary defined something, I’d look it up.
  • Tell a joke – don’t put more pressure on yourself. If your joke bombs that is what the audience is going to remember.
  • Me, me, me – no one wants to hear how awesome you are in the intro. Make it relevant to your audience.
  • The startling statistic – “Wow that statistic scared the crap out of me.” -Said no audience ever.
  • I’d like to talk about – you’re complete lack of creativity for not coming up with a more interesting intro.

The truth is that I’d bet every single one of us (myself included) have used one of these speech introduction techniques.

Begin with a win

Creativity is key when captivating your audience. My advice is to brainstorm many openings and be relentless in your pursuit for the best attention-getter. If it doesn’t feel right to you, keep revising. Here are some types of attention-getters to get those creative juices coursing through your brain.

  • Stories – captivate and engage. Human are storytelling creatures. We get lost in stories. Storytelling invokes emotions and lets your audience seem themselves in your speech.
  • Quotations – Brilliant minds have come before you have written about your topic. Use a quotation to captivate and inspire thought.
  • State the importance – related to storytelling, but telling your audience why this topic is important to them at this exact moment is a great way to intrigue and establish goodwill.

Make a lasting, memorable impact on your audience with a well crafted introduction. Begin with a win. Need more help? Check out the slideshare below.

photo by: familymwr