The Master Communicator Blog

Grab attention with a powerful opener

Presentations, particularly online, can be tedious and boring. How you open when you present can make a huge difference in your ability to hold attention and make your content memorable. Here are three tips that will help you connect with your audience right away and keep their interest high.
February 28, 2022

Online presentations can be a drag. But you can change that. 

How you open can make a huge difference in your ability to hold attention and make your content memorable. Your opening can determine how much interest the audience will show later. The first few sentences you speak must capture their attention and arouse enthusiasm and curiosity. You need to make them understand that what you are about to say is important to them because at the heart of any audience is their own self-interest.

Here are three tips that will help you connect with your audience right away and build momentum… for at least 10 minutes. 10 minutes is the time it takes to boil an egg. 10 minutes is also the length of time you can realistically expect people to stay engaged without distractions, interruption, or some type of participation, like online polls.

I normally share these power-tips in my Presentations Skills Training for Small Teams, but today I’ll share them with you in this article.


1. Hook them with a dramatic opener.

After you welcome your audience, try to step out of your comfort zone and hook them in with a provocative intro that piques their interest and previews the big idea you have in store for them. 

Here is an example of a conventional dry toast opening sentence:

Hi, my name is Rosemary and today we are going to talk about what makes a presentation great.

Yawn.

What if I said this instead?

90 percent of presentations fail miserably. The other 10 percent—the ones that stay in your memory and result in action—those are not presentations at all, they are conversations. Today we will explore how you can be among that 10 percent.

Do I have your attention now?

Try fresh ways of opening. You might start with a startling statistic like the example above. Or dazzle them with a personal story, a metaphor about your topic, a quote from a customer or someone famous. Build excitement for what will follow.

2. It’s all about “YOU”, not “I”.

Avoid saying “I” in the first 30 seconds. Make it about them—the people on the screen or the people in the room. Why should they listen to you? Why should they care? By using “you” or “we” you will flip the equation and make them the hero of your presentation. They will feel special, like they are involved in something meaningful. 

Using “you” makes your words sound much more conversational and friendly, which makes it easier to establish a connection with your audience quickly. Put yourself in their shoes. After all, you may be presenting ideas that will provide solutions to their problems and make their lives easier.

3. Enjoy the ride. 

Get into a positive state of mind. People can pick up on negative energy. If you are nervous or apprehensive when you present, it will show in your voice, body language and facial expressions. Your audience will know if you are suffering. Video conferences are more immersive than in-person meetings. Your image on the screen is more apt to be analyzed and judged by the people watching.

The first impression you cast when you begin to speak will set the tone for what comes later. Energize your opener with clear and vibrant speech. Your voice is second only to facial expressions as vehicles for expressing emotion, so start with a dynamic opening statements.

Add a smile for greater emotional appeal. Signal to your audience that you are happy to be there. And we know that happiness is contagious.

And here is a bonus tip:

Organize your content into snackable bites, small chunks, that are relatable to the audience. Speak in ideas, not long sentences. Make your slides crisp and easy to understand. Connect, don’t just present. Turn your presentation into a conversation that connects you and your audience.

Keep it short. An online presentation should be 25 to 50 percent shorter than in person. Why? Because attention spans are shorter, and people have a lower tolerance to bloated meetings on Zoom. Tell them just what they need to know– period. 

Rosemary Ravinal

Business leaders and entrepreneurs who want to elevate their public speaking impact, executive presence, and media interview skills come to me for personalized attention and measurable results. I am recognized as America’s Premier Bilingual Public Speaking Coach after decades as a corporate spokesperson and media personality in the U.S. mainstream, Hispanic and Latin American markets. My company’s services are available for individuals, teams, in-person and online, and in English and Spanish in South Florida and elsewhere.

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