Lousy opening to your presentation

Lousy opening to your presentation

The purpose of your opening is to build interest in your presentation. Your opening is like the opening paragraph of an article or the first chapter in your book. The question it should answer is “Why should the audience listen to your presentation?”

Sometimes we need to experience a bad example to really appreciate the difference. Here is an example of a bad opening---

The speaker said:

Good morning, good afternoon or whatever.
Guess I’m a little jet lagged. Ha.
Glad to be here in Toronto.

I’m the founder of…
We are based in California.
We have offices around the world.

Where’s Robert?
There he is.
He is my local licensee.

We’re running 15 minutes late and I had planned to speak for one hour and fifteen minutes and I plan to use all of that time.


The purpose is to build interest in listening to the rest of the presentation. Nothing he said in his opening did that. From that opening one might surmise that this speaker would be a pompous braggart and an inconsiderate boring speaker.

The audience makes those decisions during your opening.

We know what he didn’t do. Let’s dissect his opening to recognize what he did wrong.

Paragraph 1: Good morning

That’s cliché and boring. He started speaking at 4:00pm yet he didn’t know the time of day. That demonstrates lack of awareness and disregard for his audience. We don’t care about his alleged jet lag. That was his way of bragging that he travelled to get here. Glad to be in Toronto sounded insincere and it was cliché.

Paragraph 2: I’m the founder

The place for that information was in his introduction. It was in the introduction and for some reason he felt that he needed to repeat that. Why? Was he insecure? It seems those things were important to him and perhaps his mother?

Paragraph 3: Where’s Robert?

At some point Robert and his relationship might become significant. At this point, who cares?

Paragraph 4: 15 Minutes Late

Did he just criticize the organizers? Then he added that he was unwilling to adapt and didn’t care about the audience time expectations. He implied that the time of the audience was unimportant to him. It was more important that he exercise his desire to speak as long as he likes.

If you heard this opening -

Would you like this person?
Would you feel interested in his presentation?
Would you want to do business with his company?

Check the opening to your presentations. Avoid these mistakes.

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Superior Presentations 72: Build your presentation argument on...

Build on what they already know

When you are introducing a new idea or concept to an audience you will have better success if you build on what they already know.

Teachers often review the key points from the last class to start on familiar ground and build upon it.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone he related to objects that people are already familiar with. He even showed an image of a mobile phone with a dial. He did that for two reasons: to get a laugh and to demonstrate that the iPhone was simply the advancement of a familiar tool.

Albert Einstein explained his theory about relativity by using the analogy of a man walking on a moving train. People were familiar with train travel so they felt comfortable listening to the rest of his analogy. That analogy clearly explains the relationship between the speed of light, time and space. (It's worth reading)

When molecular scientist Neils Bohr first described the structure of atoms he used the structure of the solar system as a model. The sun represented the nucleus while the planets symbolized orbiting electrons.

The retention of old skills is often likened to "like riding a bicycle".

This is not about talking down to people. It's about connecting with them by starting with familiar territory and mindset then bridging to where you want to take them.

This technique also helps when persuading people to accept a different way of doing things, especially if you want them to abandon the established norm.

You might start your argument by confessing your past belief in the status quo until an accident provoked you to investigate other possibilities. You fought change but finally accepted the new reality. This approach allows the audience to follow your path of discovery without feeling foolish or defensive.

Introducing new ideas? You can't stand on the other side of the chasm and tell people to jump. If you want to move your audience to new ground you must first go to them and lead them across the bridge.

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3 Sales Presentation Openers to Avoid

Guest Post by Kelley Robertson

During the last 17-plus years I have been part of, or watched, hundreds of sales presentations. More recently, I viewed a series of sales demonstrations and all but one of the four sales team opened their presentation the same way.
Here are three openers you need to avoid using when starting a sales presentation.

Social chit-chat

Contrary to popular belief, spending time at the beginning of a sales presentation engaging the prospect in social chit-chat to create rapport is not a good use of time. You may think it’s important but your prospect doesn’t really care. They are busy and want you to get to the point—quickly—so they can get back to work.
There are two exceptions to this rule…
1. If you are doing a presentation for multiple people and you are waiting for people to arrive, it is perfectly acceptable to engage the others in small talk. However, once everyone has shown up, get started immediately.
2. If your prospect engages you in small talk then it makes good business to participate. Otherwise, don’t waste their time–or yours.

Thanking the prospect

Most of the sales presentations I have observed start with the sales person(s) thanking the prospect for the opportunity to present their solution. This behavior diminishes your credibility and puts you in a submissive position. Plus, it doesn’t any add value to the presentation.

Talking about your company

This is perhaps the worst mistake. The vast majority of sales presentations I have seen open with the seller talking about their company.
  • How long they have been in business
  • The clients they have on their roster
  • The awards they have won
  • The list goes on
After more than 17 years of working with sales people I still don’t know why sellers think this is an effective way to open a sales presentation.
First impressions are critical. And if you make the wrong impression in the first vital moments of a sales presentation you run the risk of losing that opportunity.

Improve your next sales presentation with my free eBook “58 Ways to Create Compelling Sales Presentations” Download it here: http://bit.ly/Rd0deV

Kelley Robertson is a specialist in sales training.

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