Professional speakers recognize the important role an effective introduction plays in a successful presentation. You too, can benefit from a better understanding of how a thoughtfully crafted introduction will improve your chances of success. We’ll look at both the act of being introduced before the presentation, as well as the beginning the presentation itself through some frequently asked questions or FAQs.
Should I have someone introduce me?
Yes—for a couple of reasons; first, it’s better to have someone else compliment you than it is for you to compliment yourself. Second, it creates the right atmosphere for a professional presentation. It’s vital however, that you write the introduction yourself. Don’t leave it to chance or assume the person introducing you has taken the time to glean the relevant information from the resume you provided. The introduction should present a carefully constructed narrative about you that piques interest and establishes your credibility.
What information should be included in my introduction?
Focus on results you achieve for clients rather than your background, credentials and experience. “For over thirty years, John Doe has helped clients save more of their money, avoid unnecessary taxes and invest for higher returns,” is better than “John Doe has a Masters in Finance from State University and has been a practicing CPA for thirty years.” Focus less on activity and more on results.
The Beginning of Your Presentation
What do I need to accomplish in the beginning of my presentation?
Your introduction needs to overcome preoccupation by getting attention, overcome uncertainty by providing a preview of your key messages and overcome apathy by showing the audience how the information you’re about to deliver will provide value to them.
How long should the beginning of my presentation be?
Your introduction should take no more than about 15% of your total presentation. Less is even better. There should also be a clear shift from the introduction to the main body of the presentation. If you’re uncertain where that shift occurs, your audience will most likely miss it as well.
When should I work on the introduction?
Although it’s counter-intuitive, start writing by mapping out your conclusion and finishing with the introduction. You’ll have a much better idea of what you plan to accomplish and you’ll help avoid writer’s block.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make in introductions?
The top three mistakes are apologizing, complaining and overselling. Audience members will be largely unaware of the circumstances surrounding your preparation. If you tell them you were only just assigned to deliver the presentation, or you hoped to have several more slides that you didn’t have time to prepare or that you’re really not the best person to speak to them on this topic, what they hear is that they are unimportant to you. Don’t draw attention to inadequacies by voicing them.
Audience members often take their cue about what they’re experiencing from the presenter. If you complain about low light levels, uncomfortable temperatures or a poor room setup, you’re inviting the audience to feel dissatisfied with their experience. If something is so obviously wrong in the room that you can’t ignore it, try to make light of the situation.
Remember, if you are presenting to an audience, someone is already sold on your credibility. Don’t waste valuable time trying to convince them about it further. They really don’t care about your experience, accreditations and awards unless you show them you deliver value. Writing gurus advise, “showing is better than telling.” Apply the same principle in your presentations. Instead of telling people how valuable your information is, show them by helping them apply your insights to their situation.
It’s sometimes possible to recover from a poor introduction, but it’s much better to get started on the right foot. When you do, you’ll be one step closer to getting the business.
©2013 Peak Communication Performance. Excerpted from Rainmaking Presentations: How To Grow Your Business by Leveraging Your Expertise, available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. Download the first chapter at www.RainMakingPresentations.com
. Affluent Magazine’s Presentation Expert, Joseph Sommerville, Ph.D., shows professionals how to design, develop and deliver effective presentations. When you book him to show your organization how to create more persuasive presentations, you’ll discover why better communication means more business. Contact him at Sommerville@RainMakingPresentations.com.