Turbocharge Your Sales Presentation – Open With a Grabber and Close With a Win

According to scientific research, an audience gives a presenter between 15 seconds to 2 minutes before deciding whether or not it is worth paying attention. If that’s true–and we have no reason to believe it is not–we must wonder why so many presenters waste their most important minutes looking and sounding like everyone else.

We’ve all heard the standard lacklustre opening that goes something like, “Thank you for inviting me. My name is fill-in-the-blank and I am here to represent fill-in-the-blank.” Then follows a lot of boring and inconsequential background trivia. Indeed, it is a shocking reality that most presenters willingly and foolishly fritter away their golden moments. Perhaps they fear looking different. Maybe attracting attention raises an alarm. Then too, it could simply be a lack of imagination and smarts.

Whatever the reason, if you want to differentiate yourself from the competition–and rise above them–don’t you dare do it. First grab your audience. Then, when they are paying rapt attention, you can tell them who you are.

Imagine you sell privacy software. You could open with a story about a deep sea photographer who survived his last dive because he was saved by a shark cage. Then you might say something like: and that’s what we do for you. Our software is like a safety cage that protects you from predators. Or imagine you are an investment firm hoping to convince an audience to invest with you. Your opening could be a newspaper report about a farmer who won the biggest pumpkin contest at the state fair because he knew precisely what it takes to make pumpkins grow big. “And that’s what we do for you,” you would say. “We know exactly what it takes to protect your investment and grow it bigger than anyone else.”

Of course, you don’t have to open with a story. You could open by teaching your audience a simple musical round–and conducting them. Then you could say, “That’s what we do when we consult with you. We make things work in harmony.”

Clearly, the number of ways to begin is limited only by your imagination. The key to a high-impact opening is to conclude it with a big point that leads smoothly to your Big Message. Your Big Message, of course, is the most important thing you want your audience to remember about you. It is that strong statement that conveys your brand promise to the world.

No matter how you choose to open, do not give your opener any preamble. Do not start by saying, “Before I begin I want to tell you a story,” or anything remotely similar. Be bold. Be confident. Simply stand up and plunge in. Once you have completed your opening and stated your message, then you may do the “Hello. My name is…” routine. And not before.

A great opening should take no more than three or four minutes. And please be fearless. Any and every audience is delighted by a well conceived, charming or entertaining opening–no matter how stuffy or conservative you may think they are.

So, here are 21 ways to grab your audience right at the opening.

  1. tell a story
  2. show an interesting quote from an interesting person
  3. read a news report
  4. post a startling statistic
  5. play a game
  6. do a magic trick
  7. show a video clip
  8. conduct a group musical introduction
  9. do card trick
  10. display a stunning visual
  11. use a toy
  12. announce a little known fact
  13. demonstrate a mind-reading trick
  14. sing a song
  15. use a puzzle
  16. take photos and display them
  17. build something
  18. recite a poem
  19. assemble a pie
  20. play an instrument
  21. talk about the weather

You’ll notice I do not suggest opening with a joke. Very few people tell jokes well and they are usually called comedians. Besides, most jokes are sure to offend someone–so it’s best not to tell jokes.

When you open with a grabber, your audience pays attention. Keep them interested with good organization, engaging slides and appropriate stories. (See my article: How to Organize a PowerPoint Sales Presentation – 7 Easy Steps For a Perfect Pitch.) Then close by circling back to your opening point and restating your Big Message.

Chances are good you’ll get a standing ovation. Chances are even better you’ll win the sale.