Like it or hate it, Forest Gump captured attention as it began with Tom Hanks sitting on a bench at a bus stop. Just like many other great movies, they decided to start at the end and walk their way backward for you to decipher what brought him to that point.
So how do you start a story? You could start your story in a different way, however, there are three simple and great openings which can increase the impact of your presentation.
Begin with the end
Well, of course, it worked with Forest Gump, they had a great cast of director, producers, and writer. If I do this, what will it look like and doesn’t this then bore the audience, since they already know how it will end?
Let’s take a case study – you have been working on a project to determine the impact an organizational change has had on the staff. After interviewing dozens of people and crunching all the data, it is time to present your findings to the senior managers. You could generate all sorts of graphs and walk them through how you did the research before coming to the conclusion.
To start with the end, you walk up and tell them that the change has been badly received by the staff and actually is not generating the desired effect. This has the effect of getting their attention and they want to find out why. The rest of your presentation is simply to explain how you came about this outcome and what it means. Of course, word of caution – if you’re in this position, I assume you already have a good recommendation of how to resolve this anomaly.
Once more, let’s visit the wide screen to find a way to describe this. I love the way it started, a sniper is perched on a rooftop with the mandate to protect a convoy. That part is less interesting, however, when he sees a child with (what he believes to be) a grenade and is about to take the shot, they freeze it and take us back memory lane to see how he learned to shoot. What makes this interesting, at this point, no matter what you think about war, etc, you will put yourself in that situation and wonder – how will I respond? They almost ask you to imagine this and give you the time to process the thought.
And how does this work in the real world? It is about involving your audience and pulling them into your presentation. So imagine this….taking our previous example, you stand before the senior managers. “Imagine while are cruising along in a Cessna business jet, the pilot makes an announcement that you have to jump out without a parachute, but that on the way down you will be picked up by a sleek new Gulfstream. How would you feel?” From here, you can go back to your presentation, showing them the change being made and the way it has been received. They will keep your image at the back of their minds as you talk. It helps people “live” your presentation.
Shock and Awe
Or why not just jolt people out of their seats? In other words, throw them a curveball. This expression took its name from baseball where the ball drops at the last phase catching the hitter off guard. The essence is simply to start in a most unexpected way and make the people look up wondering where this is going. By doing this, you not only catch people’s attention but you also have them hanging on your words as they seek to understand your story.
Did you know that 70% of all organizational changes fail and unless we do something different, this one will be part of that statistic? This will definitely get people’s attention in its boldness. They will be ready to hear what needs to be changed to make this change a success. Some will have doubts as to the statistic, and will be listening to figure out how you came about this – however, either way, they will be listening and the onus is then on you to reel them in.
No matter which of these three openings you decide to use – they have the effect of getting your audience to listen. Now that you have their full interest, make sure you use it wisely.