The Presentation Tip Guaranteed to Improve Your Performance

Have you ever started into a presentation and thought: If only I could push the reset button.

You were ready. You rehearsed. You even practiced in front of your dog. And yet, there you stood, as the energy of your audience slowly started to fade.

It’s happened to just about everyone, at some point. We misread a room, we don’t have proper context for who presented before us on that stage, or what else was on the mind of that potential donor. Perhaps we were simply so focused on delivering our own presentation that we failed to give our audience any good chance to enter into conversation with us.

As presenters, we’ve got 30 seconds (or less) to make a first impression. That first 30 seconds cements the tone of the entire presentation. If you don’t connect with your audience then, you’re likely not going to.

There’s a technique we teach at C.Fox; the same technique proven by the very best presenters in the world. And it’s guaranteed to change the way you think about opening your next presentation.

Rather than eking your way through every performance, use a little trick that makes connecting with your audience in that first 30 seconds incredibly sticky.

Ask a question.

Before your name. Before your opening remarks. Before your title slide. Ask a question.

So many presenters think the way to drive engagement right from the start is to tell a story. And they are halfway correct. Yes, storytelling is a powerful device. But, what many people fail to realize is that just diving into a story, no matter how compelling, doesn’t allow your audience a very good chance to become active listeners.

Opening with a question, like “Do you have kids?”, “Have you ever gone to bed hungry”, or “When’s the last time you went 24 hours without a phone?” gets your audience immediately and personally engaged in what you have to say.

The best presentations put the audience first. And that’s exactly where you want them as you lay out your case and deliver your call to action. Opening questions invite in, rather than tune out, your audience right from the start – which is unfortunately what happens when you lead with a slide “About Us”. (The fastest way, in fact, to lose your audience.)

So, as you gear up for that next donor pitch or presentation—as you practice your anecdote and prepare in front of your dog—consider starting with a question, and prepare to feel that room stick with you.