Guide on the Side - The Two Most Important Parts of Presentations, Part IBy Marie Wallace, Published on November 1, 1998
Marie Wallace has enjoyed a fulfilling career as a librarian, beginning in 1951 in academia with the University of California and transitioning in 1971 into the private law library world until her 1995 retirement from O'Melveny & Myers. She is the 1997 recipient of the American Association of Law Libraries' highest honor, the Marian Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award. Throughout her professional life, Marie has been a guiding force in the Southern California Association of Law Libraries, Practising Law Institute's programs for law librarians and Teaching Legal Research in Private Law Libraries (TRIPLL).
Today, Marie has commenced on a new path she terms "Life in Progress," which enables her to pursue a diversity of interests as a master swimmer, law librarian, trainer, storyboarder and designer of wearable art. She continues to be a dynamic speaker and prolific writer on such topics as private law library management, presentations and training. She is a member of Toastmasters Internationaland is active with the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) and in continuing education for private law librarians. She devotes her "free" time to various non-profit and civic activities. Always open to new ideas, Marie can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Recently I attended conferences hosted by three different
professional organizations and was struck by how many of the presenters wasted the two
most important parts of their presentations--the beginning and ending. Excellent content
in the body of speeches was diminished with circuitous openings and dead endings.
Speech beginnings are like a stage entrances. It is when you make your first and often enduring impression. Yet speakers commonly throw away their opening moments with discursive and negative comments about the weather, location, facilities, their preparation (or lack of) and irrelevant jokes.
Non-beginnings leave the audience confused and frustrated and likely to discount the speaker or tune out. By contrast, skilled presenters start like a horse out of the gate at the Kentucky Derby. I am sure you have never seen a horse walk out of the gate and amble around before starting to run but you probably have heard many speakers start this way. You can get an audience juiced up by:
|Here are eight often used techniques to jump start your presentation and
get immediate audience buy-in. They work equally well with a manual speech or one
delivered with presentation software support.
1. Ask a question--real or rhetorical
2. Relate a story, anecdote or parable
3. Make a startling statement (often a statistic)
4. Use a quotation
5. Arouse curiosity or suspense
6. State the importance or timeliness of the topic
7. Involve the audience
8. Reference the occasion
These opening techniques can be used individually or in combination. For instance, ask a question which arouses curiosity "What is the single biggest problem facing Federal judges today?" Or combine a familiar quotation with a startling statement. "FDR said we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Yet today Ecology of Fear is a best seller in Los Angeles."
Effective speakers know that the beginning part of a speech should take between 5 and 10% of the allotted speech time. For a one hour presentation, this is between three and six minutes. It is only 30 to 60 seconds for a 10 minute speech.
Although you should spend no more than 10% of your delivery time on the beginning of your speech, over half your preparation time may be spent on honing your opening. Once the beginning is crafted though you have laid the groundwork for your conclusion as well. (The topic next month will be endings.)
A word of caution about presentation software. You want to bond with your audience as soon as possible in your opening. Immediacy involves emotional resonance and is achieved quickest with the power of your persona--eye contact, voice and body language. ( Guide on the Side - A Communication Skill Suite: Speaking, Writing and Graphics.) Technology assisted delivery is more impersonal. It reduces rapid and unimpeded audience feedback and diverts attention from the speaker. Consider saving the technical wizardry and graphical pyrotechnics for the body of your speech where they will add critical visual dimensions.