How to Start a Presentation in a Meeting

By: Avi Salmon

In 2005, Sunnafrank and Artemio Ramirez Jr. at Ohio State University conducted a research study on relationships and first impressions. As many as 164 students were assessed as Ramirez and Sunnafrank closely monitored their relationships over the semester; watching their interactions as they met and worked together.

The study found that with repeated and continued exposure to their colleagues over multiple meetings during the semester, their opinion of their partner remained unchanged from the first impression upon meeting them. Despite many opportunities to develop relationships their opinion about the other person remained unchanged.

The main fact to take from this study is that people make snap judgments in a very short time, and once that first impression has formed, very little can be done to change their opinion. The amount of time spent with a person after an initial meeting has no effect upon the first impression, whether it's 3 minutes or several weeks.

Now apply this idea to a presentation. The length of a presentation can be short, from 5-10 minutes, or a lengthy 1-2 hours. Regardless, bearing the study mentioned above in mind, the first 5 minutes are the most important in deciding how your audience will feel about the presentation and their relationship with you. Two weeks from now, six months from now, or even 2 years from now, the first impression will affect your working relationship with them. Perhaps the presentation is a sales meeting. These potential new clients are deciding how much money they will invest in your company over the next few years. In conclusion of the study by Sunnafrank and Ramirez Jar highlights the important fact that there is no second chance to make a good first impression. So how can we make the most of such a small window of opportunity to open a presentation? Here are some ideas.

1. Open with a story. A personal story that will engage your audience with you. Opening with an authentic story with relationship to your subject is the strongest method to achieve great first impression.
2. Ask about a meaning of a number. What is “23”? The answer should be a surprising fact that will make a connection to your topic.
3. Using Humor. Not a joke! There are several ways to use humor without going into a knock knock joke. Cartoon, Funny quote or something authentic that happened to you will do the job.
4. Use a funny video clip. This always gets them quiet, and if the clip is good – you got their attention.

In General – make a WOW out of your first minuets. Don’t go with "Hello, my name is… and we will talk about…” Find a unique way to begin your presentation. Stand out from the start.

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There are more methods that can be practiced in your next presentation. They are elaborated and demonstrated in the book "PRESENTATION MAGIC: The quick and easy way to stand out right from the beginning" written by Avi Salmon, who have more than 20 years experience as a writer and a trainer.

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