Start with your story

The speaker walks to the podium, the audience quiets down in anticipation. She leans into the microphone and begins. But rather than start her story, she thanks the venue, then the person who invited her, then the attendees and on and on, spoiling her first precious moments with a litany of thank-yous and losing her audience's excitement and attention. 

It's gracious to express thanks but when you're the speaker, start with a bang and save the thank-yous for later. You only have seconds to grab your audience's attention and if you lose them, it's much harder to regain their focus. 

If you only have a few minutes to prepare for your next talk, try this: Plan your punchy open or the first sentence of your story and start there. Let the audience catch up with you. Then, plan to end with a bang too. You can save the thank-yous until right before your last powerful line.

Planning your open and your end will greatly improve your talks and speeches. Add a few mouth exercises and you can transform a presentation that's "meh" to one that's good.

Some speakers I've recently helped with their presentations include:

  • a visual artist giving a talk to visitors at her gallery opening
  • an author facilitating a lively question and answer session at her book signing
  • a manager wanting to bring vitality to his PowerPoint presentations who needed a coach with a theater background

If you have a burning question about your next presentation or want to prepare with a coach, email me.

When artist Anne Mavor delivered her artist talk, I suggested she start right in with a story and thank the gallery at the end so she could hook her audience from the get-go. Photo by Jane Keating from I Am My White Ancestors at Clackamas Community College's Alexander Gallery.