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Begin with a bang

Make the first minute of your speech a smash

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by on
in Workplace Communication

For your next presentation, remember this: Your audience will judge you in the first minute. If you pass muster, they’ll listen to the rest of your talk.

If you captivate people and infuse the room with your genuine energy and enthusiasm for the topic, then you’ll bond with your audience. Imagine them channel surfing on TV, and your charisma causes them to stop, settle in and watch you contentedly.

Follow these three rules to grab their attention:

Visually envelop the room. In the seconds before you begin speaking, plant your feet and straighten your back. Look directly into the eyes of three different audience members seated in different parts of the room.

If you’re speaking in an auditorium with blinding lights that prevent you from seeing your listeners, signal for someone to dim them.

Honor thy back row. Just before you begin, wait three more seconds. That extra cushion of silence reinforces your authority and ensures that you have everyone’s attention.

Then lock eyes with the individual farthest from you and utter your first sentence to that person. Reason: Your voice fills the room. The No. 1 mistake of poor presenters in the opening minute is they fail to make themselves heard, forcing cries of “louder” from people straining to hear.

Startle your audience. Start with an anecdote, a prop or an eye-opening observation or statistic. Your goal is to induce people to listen through irony, surprise or alarm. These are the best ways to stoke their curiosity.

Examples: If you’re discussing a new technology, say, “A year ago, none of us even knew about it. Today, our survival depends on it.” If you’re trying to sell a proposal, say, “When I tested the ideas I’m about to share with you, the results were so shocking that I re-ran the test five times. And the results only got better.”

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