Key Do’s and Don’ts for Presentation Openings

By Julie M. Hansen

Some other things you want to do in the opening of your sales presentation and some things you want to avoid doing in your opening.

  • Don’t save the good stuff. An award-winning comedy writer offered this invaluable tip: Start with your best joke, end with your second best, and put everything else in the middle, because if you don’t start strong, your audience isn’t going to hear your good stuff.

  • Do know your first line. Maybe you’re someone who doesn’t like to memorize what you’re going to say. Even so, commit your first line to memory. With nerves at their peak, getting your first line out without any hitches allows you to ride a wave of confidence as you move into the meat of your presentation.

  • Do test it. Sometimes an idea that seems crystal clear in your head isn’t obvious to your audience. It may just need a simple tweak to help your audience connect the dots. That’s why running your opening by trusted friends or colleagues is a great practice to get into. Listen to the input. Check to see if your opening was clear and whether you need to add or cut anything. You can even ask them to rate you on things like whether your opening was relevant, provided value, and cut to the chase.

  • Do rehearse it. The opening is too critical to leave to chance. Rehearse it out loud. Then rehearse it again out loud. Work on content first, edit as you go, and then you can start to refine it and bring it to life by adding in vocal variation and movement.

  • Do go for it. Your opening sets the stage so don’t be tentative. It’s an area where you can and should show your personality. Half-hearted attempts to tell a story or anecdote fall flat. Fully commit to your opening for best results.

  • Don’t look back. So you didn’t say a phrase the way you intended to or hit a punch line just right. Whatever you do, don’t let your audience know that you’re anything less than 100 percent satisfied with it. Whatever came out of your mouth (assuming it’s not inappropriate or incorrect) own it. Apologizing only calls attention to something that your audience probably didn’t notice anyway.

Always have two openings ready to go — one for C-level (executives with “C” in their titles, such as CFO, CEO) and one for end users. That way if an executive shows up late, you can still start on time and give another quick opening to get the key latecomers up to speed without boring the rest of your audience by repeating yourself.