Picture it: your audience is sitting in front of you. They are potential clients or customers. Here’s the way I see it. If there are five or fewer adults in your audience, they will remain adults, exhibiting the sophisticated behavior of giving you their attention. In my 30 years of speaking in front of groups, I’ve found that a group numbering more than five has the attention span of kindergarten children. They are twitching in their seats, checking their electronic devices, talking to each other and generally being distracted by shiny objects and everything else. So, you need to begin your presentation with the words to grab them so they will listen to you.
Picture them with their arms folded across their chests, heads cocked to the side, looking at you sideways. The question up front in their minds is, “Why should I listen? What’s in this for me?”
Your purpose in the opening of your speech is to literally get your audience to uncross their arms and lean forward. The first words out of your mouth need to prove to your audience that you know them. You are familiar with their needs, with the pain that you can alleviate, and the solutions you can bring to their situation. The opening of your presentation, regardless of the length of your speech, needs to grab them where they live, so they will uncross their arms, lean forward, and even poke a buddy next to them and say, “Wow, she knows me. She knows my pain. She has done her homework.”
Before you speak, you need to do the real work – embrace the grind, as athletes say about practice. You need to do the work of finding out about your audience. Research! Google is your best friend. Talk to people: your clients, the person who invited you, audience members who will be there. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more you know your customer, the more your words will flow.
When you do the research on your clients, you will instantly grab the audience with your opening words. You will touch on their need or pain. What you’re going for is a few groans and chuckles from the audience. That’s when you know you have them.