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.”
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!).