Those of you who regularly deliver business presentations will know the crucial importance of the first few minutes in determining whether you have succeeded in gaining the attention of your audience and thereby building some positive momentum for your own self-confidence.
The opening stage of our presentation is of course where we seek to engage the early interest of our audience in what we have to say, but it is also where we attempt to establish our own credentials with the subject matter. After all, if we are not able to show that we have some significant expertise and authority with our topic, then why should the audience bother to listen to our ideas or recommendations?
But there is something else that we also need to be aiming to accomplish in the opening few minutes of our presentation… and that is to build rapport with our audience. The beginning of any new relationship is a critical time. It is a time for being aware of the other party and their needs, goals and concerns. Usually as a presenter, although not always, we will want to be seen as friendly, warm and approachable.
Let us draw the analogy to going out with someone on a date for the very first time, and wanting very badly for them to form a positive impression of you. How do you initially seek to lay the foundations for this new relationship? Well, you probably give a lot of thought to how you want to look, how you will dress, and the things that you both share in common.
When you first greet your date, you smile and project that you are happy to be with them and that you are looking forward to the time that you will be spending together. You are in the moment with them – not thinking about what happened yesterday nor what may happen tomorrow, but you are very much in the “here and now” with your date!
One thing that you avoid doing is talking too much about yourself on that first date. Otherwise you run the risk of being perceived as self-absorbed. Part of the rapport building process is showing that you are interested in the other person by asking them questions and encouraging them to talk about themselves – their goals, their problems and their aspirations.
Now admittedly this sort of interaction and dialogue is not so easy to do when you are presenting to a large group, although it is something we should be doing when we are delivering a presentation to a smaller size group. However, with a larger group the key principle remains; that is you need to show you understand the goals and problems of your audience, and that you want to explore with them either how their goals can be advanced or their problems alleviated.
So, if opening your presentation is a bit like going out on a date with someone for the first time, then try and remember that the romance will naturally develop by having your focus upon your audience and showing an interest and concern for their needs. You make them feel special by showing them that you appreciate their company and that you respect their time by having given some thought to where you will take them. So loosen up, relax and enjoy your date!
Copyright 2009. Brian Carroll