Here are sage words on the business presentation introduction . . .
Words that are so sage, they hail from 1935.
The venerable Richard Borden cautions us not to “ooze” into our introduction, and his particular 1935 coinage struck me as, yes, sage.
It also strikes me as a mighty good description of what happens at the start of many business presentations.
Oozing instead of launching.
Borden offers us much more.
Business Presentation Introductions for Power and Impact
With a collection of rare books on public speaking consisting of more than 1000 volumes reaching back to 1727, it’s inevitable that I come across the occasional gem to share – this one on the business presentation introduction.
And so it is that I distill the wisdom of old-time writers into chunks of advice administered in my own classes and seminars. But occasionally, the original is so darned quaint that it carries the charm of the decade in which it was crafted.
The original can be an especially powerful tool.
Let me share some of the pithier advice that begs our attention from more than half a century ago.
Borden’s 1935 volume Public Speaking as Listeners Like it could replace any dozen modern “Business Communications” textbooks, and students would be the better for the exchange. Enjoy . . .
Use your key-issue sentence as your opening sentence.
A good conference speaker opens his comment like a knife thrower throws his knife – point first!
Conference room listeners are not leisurely listeners. They are executives who have business on hand that they are anxious to get done.
“What do you want us to do with the pending issue – and why?”
This is the question which your listeners ask the very second you rise to your feet. “What? Why?”
Don’t delay your answer. If you delay it even a few sentences, you may get an unfavorable listener reaction. “Will he ever come to the point” is an un-uttered question which forms quickly in impatient minds.
Owen D. Young was once asked how he made such swift decisions.
“A man will come to your desk, Mr. Young,” said the questioner, “and present a fairly elaborate proposal. Instead of saying that you will take it under advisement for several weeks, you say Yes or No – and your swift decision is usually right. How do you do it?”
“When I tell you how I make those swift decisions,” replied Mr. Young, “you may think that I am guided by an unreliable index – but I have found it’s an index that works. I am guided very largely by the first sentence uttered by the man interviewing me.
“I have found from experience that if my interviewer doesn’t thoroughly understand the proposal he is presenting, his first sentence will be confused.
“If he secretly doesn’t believe in the proposal, his first sentence will be evasive.
“If the details of the proposal aren’t concrete in his own mind, his first sentence will be abstract.
“On the other hand, a proposal that is opened by a sentence which is clear, compact, and concrete – is usually worthwhile.”
If you would please not only the Owen D. Youngs in your audience, but all the other conference listeners who instinctively apply the same first-sentence test, start strongly.
Don’t ooze into your speech. Begin point first – with your thumbtack key-issue sentence.
For more pithy commentary on the foibles of oozing into your business presentation introduction, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.