No More Lame Openings


Boring Presentation

Last October I was fortunate enough to meet thee Tony Robbins. He was sitting just a few tables away from me at the Magellan Hotel in San Diego. On my way out, I went over to him and introduced myself (I waited until he finished his meal of course) and was fully expecting to have just a few brief moments of cordial conversation.   But when I mentioned to him how his books and seminars have inspired me so over the years, our conversation got a little deeper, and the next thing I knew I was having a full-blown conversation with thee Tony Robbins about the importance of finding true meaning in life. And what Tony said to me before I finally moved on, has had me thinking ever since.   He said something to me that has forever changed the way I think about my purpose in life…

I’ll come back to that story in a moment. Ahh yes, the power of a story. You can easily visualize how my audience is leaning forward, waiting to hear what the mighty ‘Oz’ told me about the meaning of life. Unfortunately though, 95% of speakers begin their presentations in roughly the same lame way (at least the ones I’ve seen lately):

“Hello, I’m Joe Shmoe, and today’s talk is on Lame Openings”. Their introduction is the same thing that’s spelled out on the cover of the handout in front of you. By repeating what you already know, the signal is giving that now would be a good time for you to start texting, jump on Facebook, or take a quick catnap.


Studies show that people decide in less than 30 seconds whether or not they like you or not (less than 10 seconds here in NY!), and whether or not they are going to listen to you – and afterwards, it’s very difficult to change their mind. That’s why it’s so crucial to start off with something original, unexpected, and powerful.

“Before people decide what they think of your message, they decide what they think of you.”

images-1Here are three surefire ways to open your next speech, presentation, or sales call to help ensure audience attention and engagement.

Use a relevant and compelling factoid that will surprise or shock your audience and get them to ‘rethink’ about their job/industry/life differently. “There are more people alive today than have ever died”. This true statement (Google it) can lead into a lot of different discussions (think health insurance/long term disability…).

My next surefire method is to ask a question that immediately engages and matters to your audience. Phrase a solution or problem that the audience is seeking / avoiding in the form of a question. “How much does a single bad hire cost your company?” “How much faster could your business grow if you hired a sales superstar?” “By a show of hands, how many people here have hired someone who turned out to be a total disaster?”…

The third and best surefire way to open your presentation is with a (personal) story. What would you rather listen to, a boring 15 minute lecture, or an engaging story that entertains you, grips your emotions, and teaches you a clever lesson? Obviously the latter.

Now, to open up your presentation, speech, or sales call like a real rock star, – you need to bring all three surefire methods together. It goes something like this:


“How much would you guess a single bad hire could cost your company?” (Question). “A recent Gallup Poll Study showed that a single bad hire could cost a company like yours up to a million dollars” (Interesting factoid). “I once hired a sales rep who I thought was going to be our next superstar, unfortunately he turned out to be a total disaster. The final straw that got him fired was during our national sales meeting in Las Vegas –  he gambled away his company car!” (True Story!).

NEVER BE BORING! Effective Presentation Skills.



Train The Trainer “ Best Practices

By Michael Coelho

There are a lot of important steps involved in planning and executing an effective presentation – especially to a group of fellow trainers. Follow the steps below to ensure a remarkable presentation that may very well lead to a standing “O” every time!

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare! Planning your presentation is the all-important first step.

  • Begin with the end in mind – what action do you want to accomplish?
  • Define your presentation objective(s) and build your strategy.
  • Know your audience and customize your presentation accordingly.
  • How will you OPEN your presentation?
  • How will you facilitate interaction throughout your presentation? (Keep reading – plenty of great ideas coming up!)

And most importantly, take note of this: Presenters spend 74% of their time planning and creating the CONTENT of their presentation, and only 26% of their time planning HOW they are going to present their information. These numbers should be closer to 50/50.

Creative Opening:

Start your presentation off with a creative opening. When I teach a ‘Train The Trainer’ Class, my favorite opening is a clip from Charlie Brown, when Charlie and his crew are falling asleep in class. Click the link here to view the ‘Charlie Brown Teacher Speaking’ clip on You Tube:

I follow the clip up with an engaging question such as: “How many times have you felt like Peppermint Patty – fighting to keep your eyes open during a boring presentation?”. Or, “how do you keep your class engaged and awake?”.

The key rule here is to make sure your creative opening directly ties into your subject matter. For instance, when I teach a sales training class, I open my presentation blasting the song “I Gotta a Feeling” (“that tonight’s gonna be a good night”) by the Black Eyed Peas. I explain to the class how popular the song is, how it’s one of the most downloaded songs of all time, and how it broke almost every one of Billboard Magazine’s all-time records. “So why am I sharing this with you?” I ask my audience, “because it’s our job as sales professionals to create the same level of familiarity and positive emotions with our customers about our product, our company, and ourselves…”.

CHALLENGE yourself to create an unforgettable opening that is both entertaining and relevant to your discussion. THEN make it interactive: ask your students: “What creative openings do you use to capture attention and quickly engage your audience?” OR “What was the best presentation opener you saw as a participant?”

Collaborative Learning

Studies show that even the best listeners begin to lose focus after just 3 or 4 minutes, so you must consistently engage your audience in various ways throughout your presentation. PREPARE and PRACTICE HOW you will engage your audience. Here are some ideas:

  • Instead of showing another boring slide about the ‘5 best ways to capture attention’, break the class out into small groups (4 to 5 students in each group) and let them brainstorm the best ways… Compare their answers with yours – let the class vote on which group has the best ideas.
  • Case Studies are great for small groups as well. Material should be able to be completed (read and discussed) in about 25 minutes. All group participants should be involved in providing feedback to the class. For example, if there are 5 students in each group, the case study should have 5 questions so that each participant has to answer a question.
  • Be creative – break out the class into several teams for panel discussions, a debate, or role-play scenarios.
  • There are a lot of fun games and free templates online to turn your content into games like Jeopardy and Family Feud. Students love to play, and also love to receive prizes (i.e. winning team gets 5 bonus points on their next test!).

 Be All Inclusive

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review stated that when there are fewer than 35 (college) students, only 4-5 students account for 75% of the total interactions (answering questions) per session. And when there are more than 35 students, only 2-3 students account for 51% of the total interactions per session! Facing this challenge while teaching marketing, I use the following strategies to effectively engage the very quiet and hard to ‘draw out’ folks:

  • Start off with making eye contact (and avoiding eye contact with the class dominators). If the class dominator(s) continues to chime in, which is most likely, simply say to the class: “OK great, now lets hear from someone else”.
  • Direct your question to a particular part of the room: “okay, how about someone from the back row”; or “let’s go to the left side of the room”; or my favorite: “is there somebody wearing a red Nike hat that could answer the following question – hey what a coincidence, we have someone right here in the second row”….
  • And of course the layup: “let’s go to someone we haven’t heard from today”…

Another opportunity to make your presentation interactive: Break up your class into groups of 4 or 5 students and ask them what techniques they use to safely encourage participation from all students in their class.

Use Humor

Humor will put your audience into a more relaxed and receptive mood. Stanford University studies have demonstrated that humorwill earn participants attention and trust. Laughing can boost mood-enhancing endorphins and melt muscle tension as effectively as ten minutes on a rowing machine (I heard that on Oprah, so it has to be true!). When using humor, make sure to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Use funny stories, not jokes. Your ‘great’ joke may have been heard already, may be offensive, and most likely not memorable… a story is memorable and relatable.
  • Tell a real story about you that is personable and funny to you.
  • Keep everything clean – real clean.

Pump Up The Jam! Remember, NEVER BE BORING! Your participants will remember how they felt at your workshop long after they forget what they learned. Make it memorable, just like the song “I gotta a feeling”…