Do you know how to begin a presentation?
Does your intro have Pow?
Consider for a moment . . .
Do you begin confidently and strongly? Or do you tiptoe into your presentation, as do so many people in school and in the corporate world? Do you sidle into it? Do you edge sideways into your show with lots of metaphorical throat-clearing.
Do you back into it?
Do you start strong with a story, but let the story spiral out of control until it overshadows your main points? Is your story even relevant? Do your tone and body language and halting manner shout “apology” to the audience?
Do you shift and dance?
Are you like a turtle poking his head out of his shell, eyeing the audience, ready to dart back to safety if you catch even a single frown? Do you crouch behind the podium like a soldier in his bunker? Do you drone through the presentation, your voice monotone, your eyes glazed, fingers crossed, actually hoping that no one notices you?
Here’s an example
I viewed a practice presentation that purported to analyze a Wal-Mart case. The lead presenter was Janie. She began speaking, and she related facts about the history of the company and its accomplishments over the past 40 years. She spoke in monotone. She flashed a timeline on the screen. Little pictures and graphics highlighted her points.
I wondered at what all of this might mean.
I waited for a linking thread. I waited for her main point. As the four-minute mark approached, my brow furrowed. The linking thread had not come.
The linking thread would never come . . . it dawned on me that she had no point. At the end of her segment, I asked her . . .
“Janie, what was that beginning about? How did your segment relate to Wal-Mart’s strategic challenges in the case at hand?”
“Those were just random facts,” she said.
“Yes!” she said brightly.
She was quite ingenuous about it.
She was giving “random facts,” and she thought that it was acceptable to begin a business case presentation this way. I don’t say this to disparage her. In fact, she later became one of my most coachable students, improving her presentation skills tremendously, and has since progressed to graduate school.
But what could convince a student that an assembly of “random facts” is acceptable at the beginning of a presentation? Is it the notion that anything you say at the beginning is okay?
Let’s go over the beginning. Together, let’s craft a template beginning that you can always use, no matter what your show is about. When you become comfortable with it, you can then modify it to suit the occasion.
Set the Stage with Your Situation Statement
The Situation Statement tells your audience what they will hear. It’s the reason you and your audience have gathered together. What will you tell them?
The audience is assembled to hear about a problem and its proposed solution . . . or to hear of success and how it will continue . . . or to hear of failure and how it will be overcome . . . or to hear of a proposed change in strategic direction.
Don’t assume that everyone knows why you are here. Don’t assume that they know the topic of your talk. Ensure that they know with a powerful Situation Statement.
A powerful situation statement centers the audience – Pow! It focuses everyone on the topic. Don’t meander into your show with chummy talk. Don’t tip-toe into it. Don’t be vague. Don’t clear your throat with endless apologetics or thank yous.
Let’s say your topic is the ToughBolt Corporation’s new marketing campaign. Do not start this way:
“Good morning, how is everyone doing? Good. Good! It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’d like to thank our great board of directors for the opportunity. I’m Dana Smith and this is my team, Bill, Joe, Mary, and Sophia. Today, we’re planning on giving you a marketing presentation on ToughBolt Corporation’s situation. We’re hoping that—”
No . . . no . . . and no.
Direct and to-the-point is best. Pow!
Try starting this way:
“Today we present ToughBolt’s new marketing campaign — a campaign to regain the 6 percent market share lost in 2009 and increase our market share . . . by another 10 percent. A campaign to lead us into the next four quarters to result in a much stronger and competitive market position a year from now.”
You see? This is not the best intro, but it’s solid. No “random facts.” No wasted words. No metaphorical throat-clearing. No backing into the presentation, and no tiptoeing. State the reason you are there.
Put the Pow in Power!
Now, let’s add some Pow to it. A more colorful and arresting introductory Situation Statement might be:
“Even as we sit here today, changes in the business environment attack our firm’s competitive position three ways. How we respond to these challenges now will determine Toughbolt’s future for good or ill . . . for survival or collapse. Our recommended response? Aggressive growth. We now present the source of those challenges, how they threaten us, and what our marketing team will do about it to retain Toughbolt’s position in the industry and to continue robust growth in market share and profitability.”
Remember in any story, there must be change. The very reason we give a case presentation is that something has changed in the company’s fortunes. We must explain this change. We must craft a response to this change. And we must front-load our intro to include our recommendation.
That is why you have assembled your team. To explain the threat or the opportunity. To provide your analysis. To provide your recommendations.
Remember, put Pow into your beginning to leverage the opportunity when the audience is most alert and attentive.
Craft a Situation Statement that grabs them and doesn’t let go.