One of our clients, Jack, was preparing to present at a roadshow. We asked Jack what his audience would be thinking and he answered honestly: “Well when I was on the other side of the fence and had to attend roadshows, I would often think ‘Not another bloody roadshow’. So I have no doubt that this is exactly what most people will be thinking.”
Jack used this knowledge and started his presentation with “So I know you are all probably thinking: not another bloody roadshow.” Everyone immediately laughed. They had been outed, but they also felt that Jack understood how they felt. Jack was immediately on the audience’s side. They liked that he was on their wavelength, and they wanted to listen to what he was going to say next.
I once attended a 7.30am breakfast presentation where the CEO of Carmen’s Fine Foods, Carolyn Creswell, was presenting. She started by saying, “When the alarm went off this morning I thought, ‘This breakfast seminar better be good’. And then I thought, ‘Shit – I better be good!’”. The audience laughed and connected with her straight away.
Depending on what you are able to find out about your audience, always try to tap into what they are thinking and use that as part of your presentation.
Begin like Jack and Carolyn did. If your first line is about the audience, you’ll ‘have them at hello’, to paraphrase the film Jerry Maguire.
Your opening line is vital. The first few moments of your presentation are really important: this is when you can get your audience to connect with you.
Connect with your audience quickly. You need to figure out how you can ‘have them at hello’. You only other choice as a presenter is to lose them at hello.