Monday, October 11, 2010

How dynamic starts can help you get "good on your feet" when presenting

When you're seeking ways to make your presentations or speeches more dynamic, it's tough to beat the impact of a dynamic start. Audience attention is as high as it will ever be when you begin, but many speakers fritter away this advantage, filling the beginning with jokes, rambling comments or long lists of thank-yous to the organizers or decision-makers in the room. Worse, some speakers use the start to give the audience something to dread, as in the speaker who announces he's going to go off-topic or overtime.

A dynamic start, on the other hand, is full of promise. It offers the prospect of a prize to the audience. Done well, it gives the audience members a taste of what's to come, a sense that this isn't going to be just another boring presentation.  I often recommend that you leave planning your start until the rest of the presentation is ready.  Think of it as the advertisement, the enticement, the prize that's going to get your audience to come along with you for the duration of your talk.  Sometimes, it's best to plan that enticement once you know where your presentation is headed.

That doesn't mean that you need to do magic tricks or stand on your head to get attention. Dynamic starts can be quiet and serious, funny and energizing, or thoughtful and reasoned--and that's a big part of your planning. What tone do you want the start to set?  Which themes, directions or conclusions do you want to plant in the audience's mind at the start--and come back to at the end? How can you capitalize on their attention and focus on you and your stated topic?

Speakers mean many things when they speak of "dynamic" presentations, but at its base, the word connotes energy and movement--and therefore, for an audience, something visual, even if the visual is you moving across the room. Even if you expect to spend the rest of the presentation at a lectern, a beginning that includes high energy and movement will make that dynamic impression you're seeking.  Again, it need not be frenetic or funny.  I can envision a thoughtful, quiet, compelling start for a speaker who's posing several difficult questions by walking around the audience, appearing to think out loud while expressing a range of viewpoints on a serious topic--and that's just one example.

Best of all, in my view, having a well-rehearsed dynamic start will energize you, the speaker--and often, that's enough to carry you through what would otherwise be a difficult presentation.

We'll be learning about and trying some dynamic starts in the workshop "Good On Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop" in Washington, DC, on November 3 and 4. Will you join us? Registration details are below. Please feel free to share good examples of dynamic starts--or your thoughts about them--in the comments.

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. Go here to subscribe...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.