The most powerful strategies when beginning a presentation

Over the recent years, I have read dozens of excellent books in which their authors offer advice on how to make effective presentations in one form of another (e.g. in-person, teleconferencing, electronically recorded). None offers more and better advice than does As We Speak: How to Make Your Point and Have It Stick, co-authored by Peter Meyers and Shann Nix, published by Atria Books/A Division of Simon & Schuster (2011).

After explaining in the first chapter how ensure that a speech is outcome-focused, relevant, and on point, Meyers and Nix note that when taking the next step, “you can’t just start slapping bricks together. First, you need to know where they go. You need a design. So now it’s time to put together the architecture of ideas.”


The architecture consists of  three parts: Ramp (the beginning),  Discovery (the middle), and Dessert (the end).

Meyers and Nix suggest three “Master Tips”:

• Get the I/You ratio right: Use ten “You’s” for every “I.”
• You have only seven seconds at the beginning in which the audience decides whether or niot they’re going to pay attention.
• Don’t bury the lead. If you don’t hook them right up front, you’ve lost them forever. There are no second chances.

Here are the opening strategies they recommend:

1. Open with the word “You”
2. Use a powerful statistic (i.e. a “sexy number”)
3. Ask an intriguing question.
4. Shock them.
5. Make a confession.
6. Use the word “imagine.”
7. Tell an historical anecdote that is relevant to your key point.
8. Tell a story: setting, characters, conflicts, tension, key developments, resolution

I highly recommend  As We Speak as well as these:

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
Chip Heath and and Dan Heath

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Robert B. Cialdini

Elements of Influence: The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead
Terry R. Bacon


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