While we’d all love to brag that every one of our presentations has gotten the results we wanted, there aren’t many of us who can truthfully say it has really happened. We’ve all had our clunkers – and in those clunkers, we likely didn’t get the business. It’s also likely that your trouble in those poor performances started in the first few minutes.
Those are very important minutes in your presentation for various reasons.
- It sets the stage for what you’re going to tell them. According to Carmen Gallo, author of “10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators”, you need to start strong, a concept he also compares with the newspaper’s motto of not burying the lede. (no; that’s not a typo). Newspapers, for years, have used a pyramid structure for their stories with the most important or compelling concepts at the beginning of each story. What grabs your attention? The headline. Can’t get closer to the beginning than that.
- Your believability is determined immediately. There is a lot of research that suggests people make up their minds within seconds, a concept that Malcolm Gladwell discussed in depth in his best-selling book, Blink. Among the decisions they make quickly – is how much they trust you. So, establishing trust immediately is key.
- You establish your rapport with the audience. It’s more than trust; it’s also getting the audience to want to work with you.
- In your opening , you establish your own confidence as well. That confidence builds your ability to do the rest of the presentation and sets the stage for everything that comes afterwards.
During the ensuing parts of your presentation, you continue to build on these key opening minutes as you create your case for how your solution solves the needs of your audience.
I have learned that my presentations are always communicate better and are more persuasive when I make sure I start strong – just like Gallo suggests. I’ve also noticed that it’s difficult to get out of a rut if you don’t start strong. So, it’s not unusual for me to obsess during my preparation about the first two minutes of my presentation – sometimes giving those minutes as much attention as the rest of the presentation as I prepare.
You’ve heard the many analogies about building a house; and they all start with the importance of a good foundation. The first two minutes of your presentation are when you get you get that foundation to set properly. So you can’t have a good foundation without a good first two minutes.