Break This Rule: #5 – Open with Your Introduction and Close with Questions

Sound like a dreaded college lecturer? BOOKENDS will hook your audience and send them out singing!

The most important moments in your presentation are the first 30 seconds and the last 30 seconds. I call them bookends. The opening hooks your audience and gets them interested, and the closing sends them out energized by your message.

Bookends are critical to audience perception because of the recency and primacy effects, which Bookends are critical to audience perception because of the recency and primacy effects, a term coined by Hermann Ebbinghaus in the early 20th century.” These ideas assert that the first thing people hear is memorable, and after a lot of interim information, the last thing they hear sticks too. Your job is to make both memorable.

So please, avoid the standard, “My name is John Jones. I’m here to talk about how to fill out an expense report. Let’s go to the first slide.” Yawn.

Find a way to grab them. Try a rhetorical question with a startling fact: “Did you know that 22 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of hearing loss? I’m Chris, and I’ll tell you how to find hearing devices that can barely be seen!”

Engage them: “Good morning. Please raise your hand if you had breakfast this morning. Wow! Only about a third of you. I’m Cameron, and my research proves that eating a healthy breakfast is the most important part of losing weight.”

Try as many openings as you can — once you have a pocketful of options, you’ll always be able to engage your audience.

You also want to leave your audience with a sticky, compelling message. Send them out excited, talking about what they learned, or determined to take action. Your closing statement could include a call to action: “Remember to vote for our city parks tomorrow!” Or it could include a stirring final sentence.

A great example is President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address on January 20, 1961: “And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

Get more tips on how to craft bookends for your next presentation at ImprovEdge.


Photo credit: Kevin Dooley via Flickr

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