The Gigantic Mistake That Most Speakers Make When Giving a Presentation
Shawn Doyle, CSP

April 22, 2024

Every day across the world there are people giving presentations in a room or on Zoom. Based on my experience as a presentation skills coach trainer, and speaker, unfortunately, most people make a gigantic mistake when they present. What is this mistake they make?
It’s how they start their presentation. They completely blow the beginning. I have sadly seen it thousands of times. It is what differentiates a great presenter from a bad one, a bang from a whimper, and an amateur from a professional. The beginning is the most important part of any part of your presentation.

Think about this- we live in a world where people can download entertainment instantly at their fingertips. Using a Kindle Fire, I Pad, Phone, desktop, or laptop they can open a video or movie or game in less than a minute and be taken in by dramatic and entertaining content. Contrast that with a meeting room – where people are asked to sit and then be subjected to a person droning on with the lights dimmed and 90 slide PowerPoint deck.

Most people start their presentation with what I call a “name tag introduction.” You know the name tags that are big and blue and say say hello my name is? That is how they start an important presentation-
“Hello, my name is __________ and my topic today is ______________.”
Yawn. Double yawn. Really? Is that compelling and interesting and makes your audience excited to hear what you have to say? NO! It’s anesthesia. Why? 1) Everyone starts that way 2) It’s as boring as watching grass grow 3) It’s not compelling or attention-getting.

The truth is this- the first sixty seconds are the most important of your entire presentation. In fact, according to research, you have about 3 seconds to get the audience’s attention.

How then do you get their attention? Here are 5 easy tools that work well.

1. A Story. Start with a story that is compelling, true and your story. If it is your story, it is original and you can tell it better. The audience will also feel the sincerity of the story because you lived it. You can also use inspirational stories about others if you like. The only rule is you must then relate the story to what it is you are going to talk about. Say something like- “and the reason I told you the story is”…

2. A Stat. Find a cool statistic that can relate to the topic that is shocking or compelling. As an example, if I am talking about public speaking I can say: “Did you know that over 76% of people suffer from a fear of public speaking?”

3. A Quote. Find a quote about the topic that is interesting and start with that. For example, you could start with as Jerry Seinfeld once said: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

4. A Prop. I will on occasion use a prop when I speak. I often tell a story about a young Walt Disney and when I tell the story I pull out a stuffed animal of a classic Disney character and show it to the audience. It always gets a great response because it is fun and unexpected.

5. Describe a problem. Start with a problem in our society or your company. Say something like: “Today we have an issue- we are suffering from a huge retention issue of new employees. This is costing our company tons of money in hidden costs.” That will get their attention!

After you have started with a boom- you can then say who you are, what your topic is, and what you are going to cover. Because now you have their attention.
OK- now go do it!

Shawn Doyle, CSP is the founder of Shawn Doyle Training.

New Light Learning & Development, Inc. I Author 24 books I Consultant I Keynote Speaker
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