Whether you’re delivering a sales presentation to a prospect, an internal briefing within your company, or the keynote speech at a conference, the first words out of your mouth have the power to make or break your effort. The way you open your presentation impacts your credibility and tells your audience whether or not they should listen to you.
Too many salespeople and speakers lose their audience immediately by opening their presentations poorly. To avoid their fate, don’t open with any of these six things:
1. A Joke
Newbie presenters are often counseled to open with a joke, on the theory that it will capture the audience’s attention, get them laughing, and start things off on a positive note. However, if you’ve heard the joke, odds are your audience members have too. Which means it’s not funny and instead, a waste of their time.
2. Your Company History
Your company has a long and glorious history. And if you tell your audience all about it, they’ll be impressed and your credibility will go through the roof. The reality is, nobody cares about your company’s history except the people it employs. I once watched a CEO stand up and walk out of a sales presentation because the salespeople were detailing their company’s history and the CEO decided his time was too valuable for that. Needless to say, the sales opportunity left with him.
Starting your presentation by apologizing for the weather, the room setup, a schedule delay, or the simple fact that there’s a meeting at all, undermines your credibility and signals weakness to your audience.
4. A Stupid Question
Despite what your parents and teachers told you, there is such a thing as a stupid question. Queries like “Who here would like to earn more and work less?” or “How many of you want to double your sales immediately?” are so obvious they insult the audience’s intelligence. And when an audience feels insulted, they tune out the speaker.
5. Telling Them What Else They’d Rather Be Doing
Opening with comments like, “I know you’d all rather be outside on a beautiful day like this…” or “I recognize that you have a lot of pressing work on your desk…” implies that what you’re about to say isn’t very important, which tacitly gives your audience permission to stop paying attention.
6. Talking About Yourself
Many speakers start their presentation by telling the audience their personal history, their accomplishments, their awards and so on, believing that recounting their success builds their credibility. But talking about yourself can be even worse than talking about your company, because not only does nobody care about you, but it can come across as bragging, making you seem arrogant. That’s a sure-fire way to lose your audience quickly.
With today’s audiences ready to whip out their phones the moment you lose them, you can’t afford to sabotage yourself with your first few words. Avoid these six mistakes when crafting the opening to your presentation and you’ll at least have a fighting chance.
What other terrible ways of opening a presentation have you witnessed? Share them in the comments below!
Photo © Andreypopov | Dreamstime.com – Young Businessman Discussing Work