If you've ever watched a sitcom (and who among us has not?) you're probably familiar with the idea of the "cold opening". That little snippet of a scene before the opening credits roll is meant to get the audience on the hook right away, and keep them from changing the channel. The thought is that once the viewers are involved in the story, they'll be less likely to stray from the show.(Of course, it's not only used on sitcoms. If you, or *ahem*, a friend are addicted to "Law and Order" reruns on cable, this is part of the reason why. The ending of one episode flows right into the cold opening of another. Before you know it, you've spent 4 hours with Olivia and Stabler. No one? Just me? Anyway...)
An Attention Grabber is like a cold opening. It's the brief moments at the top of your Introduction. Despite the fact that we know they work, many people are reluctant to use Attention Grabbers for speeches and presentations. It makes some people feel uncomfortable, or fake, or like they're "performing". Considering the first moments of a presentation can be the most nerve-wracking, they're even less inclined to put themselves out there right away.
So, why should we even bother? What do you get from crafting a good Attention Grabber, rather than just opening with "Umm, ok, let's start..."? There are benefits to giving it a try:
- You let your audience know it's time to begin: Just as a cold opening says "it's time for the show to start", your Attention Grabber tells the audience it's time to tune in to your presentation.
- You also tell them that you're the leader of the room: Confident, prepared openings are far more effective than simply "sneaking" into your content. You establish yourself as a leader from the first moment.
- You let your audience know a bit about you, right at the top: However you choose to open will reveal a lot about who you really are. Remember, connecting with your audience on a human level is essential if you want to persuade them to take your desired action.
Perhaps what people balk at is the perception that Attention Grabbers need to have a high "cheese factor". We've all seen someone who opened their presentation with a bad joke that bombed. We want to run from a situation like that. The key to avoiding the cheese factor is to realize that Attention Grabbers should align with your comfort level. They can be simple or elaborate, funny or tame, a story or a sentence. The only requirement is that you do something to establish the opening of your presentation.
Creative presentation ideas like Attention Grabbers aren't there to make you "perform", but they are there to help showcase YOU. Here are some ways you can make the most of your opening moments, and engage your audience right away:
1. Keep it simple: Find a strong Neutral Position, breathe, smile, and say something easy. Even just the words "Welcome. I'm glad to be with you today," can suffice to get everyone to focus in. However, don't forget those important three steps: Neutral Position, breathe, and smile.
2. Start with a story: It doesn't have to be a long one to catch your audience's interest. It can be related to your content or not, but keep it personal. Your audience will get to know more about you. For example:
"The first time I ever traveled to Denver, there was an intense blizzard. I wasn't able to return to New York on time, and was stuck in town for an extra two days! But I got to explore the city and enjoy the restaurants, and it quickly became one of my favorite places. I'm pleased to be back here in Denver with you today."
3. Yes, you CAN start with humor: If humor is a big part of your personality, don't be afraid of it! The key to making a bit of humor land is to keep it appropriate to the content and the crowd (if you're delivering very bad news, this is probably not the way to open...), professional and classy, and in line with your own sense of what's funny. If you're not comfortable leading with a joke, by all means don't. There's no hard-and-fast rule about making people laugh to break the ice.
4. Ask a question, or "poll" your audience: Give your audience something to ruminate on during your presentation, or ask for a quick show-of-hands in response to a question. You'll grab their attention, and get them thinking.
5. Remember your strong physicality: No matter which option you choose, remember to enforce positive non-verbal communication from the top. All of these options, not just number one, require these three steps: find your Neutral Position, breathe, and smile.
Attention Grabbers don't need to be cheesy, but they do need to be done. Keep your "cold opening" true to you, and both you and your audience will be ready to go on the journey of your presentation.