Adaora had written to several public speakers via email to help her with a presentation she will be having with management in her organization. She works in the communications department of a telecommunication company (that must be a lot of pressure I know) and she was just recently promoted to mid-management. The story of how she got here I will tell you another day.
She wanted to impress management and also hope that her proposal will be accepted for the bid her organization is making to the federal government for a major project. This is a big shot, it could skyrocket her career and give her the recognition she desires. She had spent sleepless nights trying to learn the ropes of a good presentation
On a cold Friday night, while we were having drinks with some of our friends at the lounge, she told us about the presentation she was having with management and how it could propel her career to the roof. She explained to me about her sleepless nights and bad eating habits, I could affirm as Betty had mentioned that she was losing a lot of weight. But Ada had shrugged it off, claiming she’s trying to fit into a nice gown she just got.
With a career in banking, having worked with one of the top banks in the country, I promised to help her, but only if she finishes her drink and spend the night with the girls wearing a happy face. I have always heard some of my colleagues say “Kate is a guru when it comes to presentations and she sure gets everyone running after her for some lessons”. I would rather call myself an attentive listener and a good learner.
Ada at this point had a sigh of relief but insisted I give her a time to meet up before she would gulp down any more drink from what they have on their table. We agreed to meet at my place on Sunday after Church service. Ada was esthetic at this point as she ordered more drinks for our table.
This isn’t the first time I was having to help someone with a presentation, as a matter of fact, I am considering starting a public speaking company out of this as an extra source of income. (I mean; I have been speaking well over 5 years since I even joined Toastmasters international)
We both met on Sunday after church service as we had agreed, I was making lunch and Ada offered to help. I tried to start off with a light conversation about her personal life while cutting some of the veggies, but Ada was keen on getting to the main point and this was where I started my lesson.
I told her that in the first 30 seconds of her speech, her audience could decide to listen to her or use the opportunity to check their emails and social media. If you don’t start right you will lose them the whole speech, even if the other points in the speech are excellent.
“So how do I Start my presentation without losing management,” Ada asked
There are several ways you can start a speech I told her as she was getting comfortable on my parlor couch, but whatever method you decide to use, you must be sure you get their attention. I told her I was going to share with her 3 ways to start a speech. I saw a smile on her face after that.
You can start with something funny, something to get them relaxed, you don’t have to be as funny as Kevin Hart or Chris Rock, a subtle joke about something in the room can work. “but I am no comedian” she said, I assured her she didn’t need to be a comedian to get people to giggle or feel a bit relaxed. I reminded her of the speech Bill Clinton gave in 1993 in Memphis to some ministers (after having heard himself introduced as “Bishop Clinton”): He said “You know, in the last ten months, I’ve been called a lot of things, but nobody’s called me a bishop yet. When I was about nine years old, my beloved and now departed grandmother, who was a very wise woman, looked at me and she said, ‘You know, I believe you could be a preacher if you were just a little better boy.'”
Say something funny that will make them laugh, laughter is a sign of a warm welcome, it is almost impossible to frown and laugh at the same time. This got her relaxed a bit, as she even affirmed how her MD does this often during his presentations.
At this point she got a call from her lover, asking them to meet up for a date but she politely asked if they could meet up another time. I promised her to finish in good time so she can spend some time with him and also practice her openings with him. We both gossiped about him for a while, sharing our relationship goals with each other, “why has he not proposed she exclaimed”. I reassured her things will be better as we continued to talk about her presentation.
You can also start by stating some statistical facts that will get people to ponder, something that will make them go ‘hmm’ Statistical figures goes a long way to prove the validity of a statement or message, you can start by giving figures about the presentation topic. I told her of a time I was talking about Plantains and how I started. I started by saying “In Africa, plantains and bananas provide more than 25% of the carbohydrate requirements for over 70 million people” That will be enough plantain for you and me. This got everyone talking, then I asked who has eaten plantain or banana in the past 5 days and a number of hands went up which I told her is the third way to start a speech. Ask a question
A question is a good way to start engaging the audience, especially a question that your audience will have an answer to. You don’t want to ask something more confusing. Like the practical question I asked about who has eaten plantain or banana in the past few days, and this I was able to use to strengthen my points in my presentation.
I also mentioned to her how she can blend two to three openings in the first few seconds of her presentation. At this point She texted her lover that she would love to go on the date, her mood was up and she was eager to practice with him her newfound techniques. I told her she could use it in informal meetings like her date and also informal settings like her office presentation.
We spent some more time together talking about our ambitions as we sipped from the pepper soup I had made.
It’s 10:56 pm and I get a text from Ada, it reads “are you up? I have gist for you” of course I love a good gist, who doesn’t? I called her immediately, I didn’t even mind that I needed to sleep early in preparation for the new week.
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