Opening the Window – How to Open Your Persuasive Presentation

Virtually any presentation you give has to persuade someone of something. In order to do this, your arguments must be presented logically and in a manner the audience can follow. There are three parts to a presentation: the opening, the body and the close. This article is going to concentrate on the opening.In the opening, you “tell them what you’re going the tell them,” but in a manner that sets up the logical and hopefully, persuasive argument. Here’s an outline of the opening:

Visual of an open window.

Have the MC introduce you, based upon an introduction you’re written yourself. It’s important that it contain pertinent facts about your that provide a basis for the argument you’re going to present in your talk. Make sure you highlight related and experience and also use language that will set the tone for the presentation overall.

There are many ways to begin your talk. You first need to determine the kind of atmosphere you want to create. Should you tell a joke, recount a personal story, make a pertinent observation? Think about what your objective is. The key thing you want to accomplish is to give your audience a sense of your personality and, in most cases, to get them to like you.

If you’re not good at telling jokes, don’t do it! Often just a personal, positive observation will do the trick. You need just enough to break the ice and set the tone. Think about this well ahead of your talk and rehearse it. It’s one of the most important parts of your speech. Your audience will be sizing YOU up in the first few seconds and so you have to be at your best!

Then make a short opening statement – something to grab their attention – something that ties directly into the main theme of your talk. It could be controversial fact, a statistic or simply a broad statement. Whatever you do at this point must draw their attention to you and what you have to say. An example might be: “Before you leave here today, you’re going to have all the information you’ll ever need about buying a house.”

The next step is to describe the PROBLEM, or OPPORTUNITY. Why are you here? What is the challenge that you’re all facing together. This is the basis for your talk – to help solve this problem.

Next, present your CREDENTIALS for addressing the problem. What experience do you have solving similar problems? How many years of related background do you bring to the table? What makes you different from others (if you’re in a competitive situation)?

Then present your SOLUTION. However, just summarize it here. This is where you “tell them what you’re going to tell them.” And, in most cases, you should also tell them what you’re going to ask them to do at the end of the presentation. What is the action you will want them to take? This prepares them for the arguments you’re going to present in support of your solution.

Finally, present your AGENDA. Tell them what points you’re going to cover in the body of your presentation to support your solution. This is a simple “shopping list” – a word or two description of each of the upcoming arguments you’ll present later in more depth.

Finally, bridge to your first point.

On the day:

Before you begin your presentation, try to meet as many audience members as possible. Shake their hands. This breaks the ice and makes your talk appear more personal. You’ll also get a chance to “size up your audience” by asking them short questions that will give you an idea or their background, disposition towards your subject, etc. It may also provide you with an opening comment that will make you seem to be “one of the group.”

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