How to Open a Business Presentation StronglySarah Denholm
Business presentations need a strong opening, without being dramatic or hyped-up. When a more punchy, ‘wow’ opening is required for a group, there are various ways to do it: you could ask a powerful question, give a startling statistic, or tell a short anecdote, to name just a few. But if you’re giving a quarterly update to your team, or presenting to senior management, for example, these openings are not appropriate. In this case, you need to deliver a solid, clear, concise position statement that connects your content to your audience: why you’re all there in the room or virtual space.
The opening sets the tone of your presentation, and tells your audience why they should listen to you.
You might be stating:
- a change of strategy
- a new initiative
- what went wrong with a past strategy and how you plan to fix it.
So your opening as part of the marketing team might sound like this:
“We’ve all experienced the shifts in the marketplace during the last year, and the figures are sobering, as you saw in the previous presentation by Mandy. How we respond to this new environment will make the difference between our growth, survival and potential collapse. Today we’re going to show you how the marketing team plan to claw back the 5% market share we lost in 2012, and increase our market share by 8% in the coming year, so that we can regain our strong position in the marketplace.”
What does this statement do?
- It’s short: straight to the point. You need to edit your words down to the minimum required to get your point across. Most of us use more words than necessary. Say what you need to say and stop
- It’s solid: the words are strong and definite; you take a position and own it
- It’s clear: you’ve worked out your one core message: if you could stand up and say only one statement before sitting down again, what would that statement be? You need an over-arching premise, in order not to go off at unnecessary tangents. You will of course have various sub-points, but the best way to tie in clearly to those sub-points is to start with a clear core message.
- Give your recommendation up-front: tell your audience what needs to happen up-front. The more senior the team you’re speaking to, the more vital this is. Get to the point of what you plan to do, then you can back-track with how you’re going to make it happen. Don’t make them wait for the ‘punch-line’, they won’t tolerate it.
When you give a strong, clear position statement, you’ll get your audience’s attention at the start of your presentation: and if you can get their attention initially, you’re much more likely to keep it.