Do you want your presentation to engage people? Do you want your speech to take the audience on a journey with you as their tour guide? Do you want to lead them to an outcome that you know will positively change their thinking?
Getting people’s attention is one of the most difficult parts of public speaking. You need to break them free of their internal dialogue that they’ve brought into the room, and make them listen to you. If you don’t do this quickly in a speech, you’ll lose them from the very start.
This is why you need to focus on making the opening of your speech as powerful as possible. I recommend spending at least 30% of your time working on your opening. Start with a gold star opening that snaps your audience out of their everyday lives and grabs their attention.
One of the best ways do this is to start with a question. Questions create a gap in knowledge. For example, a question like, ‘Do you know how many people are on Facebook?’ makes the audience sit back and wonder, ‘How many people are on Facebook?’ A question like, ‘Have you achieved everything in life you wanted?’ makes a person think, ‘Hmm, there’s a lot of things I wanted to do that I haven’t.’
We’re conditioned to listen when a question is directed at us. We learn this in childhood. A question creates a dialogue with the audience and makes them take notice.
Your presentations can be transformed if you start with a question. Instead of an audience full of sleepy faces, you’ll find yourself looking at people who are attentive and engaged.
Poor openings are a wonderful way to turn people off, and lose them for your entire presentation. Starting your presentation with a question will grab them from your first line.
A great opening question can spell the difference between success and failure in a presentation.