Most students don’t know how to begin a presentation.
That’s not profound, you say? You may, in fact, believe that it’s outright false.
Of course you know how to begin a presentation, right?
What kind of fool does this guy think I am?
But do you? Really?
Does your intro have Presentation 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 actually 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 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?
No Presentation Pow . . .
This lack of Presentation Pow is exemplified for me by an example I experienced several years ago.
I was viewing a practice presentation that purported to analyze a Sears 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 60 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.
It dawned on me that she had no point. The linking thread would never come.
At the end of her segment, I asked her:
“Janie, what was that beginning all about? How did your segment relate to Sears strategic challenges in the case at hand?”
“Those were just random facts,” she said.
“Yes!” she said brightly.
And 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 do not say this to disparage her. Not at all.
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, shall we?
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
You begin with your introduction. Here, you present the Situation Statement.
The Situation Statement tells your audience what they will hear. It’s the reason you and your audience are there. What will you tell them?
The audience is gathered 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.
What do I mean by this? 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 12 months 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. Clearly and directly.
Put the Pow in Power!
Now, let’s add more Pow to it. A more colorful and arresting introductory Situation Statement might be:
“As we sit here today, changes in the business environment attack our firm’s competitive position in three ways. How we respond to these challenges now determines 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 that 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 introduction with Presentation Pow 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. Leverage the opportunity when the audience is at its most alert and attentive.
Craft a Situation Statement that grabs them and doesn’t let go.
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