A multi-ethnic group of college students are sitting taking notes in a lecture hall – an instructor is standing up front leading the class.

Nothing beats a great introduction before the presentation. One – your introduction and two – the introduction of your subject or topic. What should your intro say? First, stress the benefits of the topic to the audience and then give your background. It’s always good that your introduction is done by someone else whose opinion is significant for the audience. If you are presenting before your peers then you should introduce yourself the way you perceive you, remember it should not be self-praise but it’s okay to state your achievements, accomplishments experience. Keep the intro to no more than 60 seconds – about 120 words. The first 30 seconds are the “make or break” time for your presentation.

How you should introduce your subject depends on the type of presentation or speech you are making and kind of audience there is. If it is professional presentation then the introduction should be restricted to the subject, a theme of your presentation, if it is about a general topic or subject in front of mixed audience, then it’s a good idea to introduce your topic through an anecdote, story or some joke. As already suggested in my previous post on this series, the jokes should not be targeted at any specific community, language, gender, or religion.

Be certain your opening is directly linked to the purpose of your presentation. If you are at loss of content for the introduction, use your conclusion, taking a cue from Stephen Covey’s dictum of “Begin with end in mind”. Start and finish by emphasizing the same major points.

Speech coach Ron Adren says “You must believe in what you say. Be poised – not much movement in the beginning. Take time with the audience.” A good start will launch you toward a great finish.

Remember start is only one section of your speech. After doing a great start, your speech should have the ability to hold your audience. A common denominator of all great speakers is that they involve their audience – almost instantly. I am sure in recent times you will recall our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, listen or watch any of his speeches, you will find him energizing his audience and connecting them almost instantaneously. You would also recall how he uses introduction in his speeches, if he is speaking any of the Indian states, most of the time he starts addressing his audience in local language, resulting in huge applause and a great connect. Then he carries on his speech on this high tide of audience connectedness.

Keep your audience involved is always a good strategy, you can do it by asking random question, their opinion about what you say, their experience. Of course, the nature and extent of eliciting involvement will depend on the nature and type of presentation or lecture. 

By asking meaningful questions, you can get people to stand and even raise one or both arms as an audience survey, reply device. This provides you with feedback information that is relevant to your presentation content, and provides people in the audience with a legitimate excuse to get up and stretch. This gets their blood going, gets them involved and makes for a far more attentive audience.

Many effective presentations begin with the speaker asking questions of the audience. It forces people to start thinking about your message. If you really know your topic and feel comfortable, you can ask your audience questions you will answer during your session. This will help you build association with members of the audience and would give you opportunity to interact with them during the course of your presentation. This breaks the monotony of the lecture and keeps your audience riveted. But a word of caution, ask your audience to field their question about the subject, only and only when you are very confident about the topic you are presenting. Never give wrong answer or try to confuse the audience, also never ask a question in response to a question, if you need to ask a question related to the question asked, you should first answer the question from the audience then go on to ask your question, or you should tell why you need to ask a question in order to give appropriate answer.  There are many examples exhibited by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, when he instead of answering direct question ventured into asking counter question, every time this act exposed his ignorance and incompetence.

You should be able to think out of the box and be creative with involving your audience. One size doesn’t fit all, something which works on one set of audience may not work on another set of audience. You should keep notes after your presentation and lecture as to what worked and what didn’t, you also need to reflect and analyze why it happened. This will help you design your presentation even better the next time and your next presentation will always be better than your last one.

Krishna Kant Bajpai

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