I have actually SEEN audience members roll their eyes as soon as a speaker says, "First, let me tell you a little about myself." Why?
#1. It’s rarely a little. It’s often a litany of achievements that quickly becomes INFObesity.
#2. It clearly transmits the speaker thinks s/he is the most important person in the room.
#3. It assumes people in the room want to know more about you. Which is bordering on egotism since, chances are, people have already read your bio in the program brochure - or they just heard your introduction.
#4. It presumes your credentials are what gives you your authority and is what will motivate people to listen to you. Nope. Delivering relevant, useful insights is why people will choose to give you their valuable attention.
So, how CAN we begin a presentation?
Well, there are lots of ways to pleasantly surprise people and let them now they’re in for a treat. Here’s just one approach that can work well.
Share a favorite quote and then hook and hinge it back to your topic, the purpose of the meeting, or your audience’s goals.
For example, I sometimes share Arthur Rubenstein’s “I have found if you love life; life will love you back” and then segue into, “I love this program. To help you love it back, I promise NOT to waste your valuable time, mind and dime on ivory tower theories that aren’t relevant to your world. Instead we’re going to focus on real-life ideas you can use immediately to improve your effectiveness on and off the job. Sound good? Let’s go.”
Or you can say, “Richard Branson said, ‘Time is the new money.’ I think time is the new TRUST. You’ve carved time out of your busy schedule to be here. For you to TRUST this is going to be a good use of your time, here is our agenda. I promise we will stick to it and wrap up on time.”
Or perhaps you could share Carrie Fisher’s quote, “Instant gratification takes too long” and then say, “You may be wondering how this program will be an ROI for you. Well, here are three ways it can benefit you THIS WEEK. The first way is …”
Or you might want to quote someone who is a respected thought leader in your profession and tie their quote into the theme of your meeting.
For example, “Jeff Bezos said, ‘The only danger is not to evolve.’ It is time for us to evolve the way we approach our customers. The purpose of our meeting today is to focus on how we can do that starting this month so we regain our market-share and start making the profits we all want, need and deserve.”
Are you thinking, “Aren't there exceptions to this? What if I’m speaking to skeptics and they won't listen to me unless they know I’m an expert?”
If that’s the case, make sure your relevant background is included in your bio in the program brochure AND referenced in the formal introduction from the emcee. OR distill it into a succinct opening such as, “You may be thinking, ‘Who are you, and why can we be confident you know what you’re talking about?’ Good question. Here’s a 60 second background of my credentials so you can trust that the best practices I’ll be sharing today are based on real-world experience you can apply immediately.”
By mentioning that you’re keeping your bio to 60 seconds, you let participants know you understand they want proof of your expertise, you're happy to provide it, and your priority is to focus on delivering bottom-line value to them.
Why is this so important? Because the clock starts ticking the second you start talking.
People make up their mind in the first 60 seconds whether you’re worth listening to. If they’re not convinced in the first minute this will be relevant and useful to them, they’ll start checking email, sending texts or looking for an exit.
So, what’s an important presentation, pitch or meeting you’ve got coming up?
How will you pleasantly surprise people with an opening that causes them to think, “I’m glad I’m here. If THIS is an example of your approach, intent and priorities, I’m in.”
Or if it’s a tough crowd, at least they’ll think, “This isn’t as boring as I thought it was going to be. I’m going to give you a chance.”
Either way, you'll have EARNED everyone's attention, and isn't that what we all want?