The Bad Presentation Starts Badly
You amble in front of the audience and spend the first thirty seconds focusing on the computer screen, while also turning to look at the projector screen and fumbling with the clicker. By the time you finally look at the audience, they’ve already made up their minds about how the next twenty minutes will go. You deliver as expected: you rely on your Powerpoint, each slide appears to surprise you, and you mostly look at the projector screen. You slip up and they sigh. Your obvious lack of preparation makes you look amateurish, and for you the whole experience is excrutiating. You remain standing in the same spot throughout.
Finally, you switch from your penultimate slide to one that reads ‘Questions?’ and stare hopefully at the audience, then at the person who introduced you. What little energy was left in the room slowly ebbs away. After an awkward ten seconds, someone asks a question – you answer it, then wait ten even more uncomfortable seconds for another question, which doesn’t come. You go and sit down. You feel dejected for days and decide to never give another presentation.
The Good Presentation Starts Well
You walk purposefully to the front and immediately engage the audience with a big ‘Hello’, a big smile and a big dose of enthusiasm. You come across as genuinely interested in the audience, so they decide that you’re probably worth listening to for the next minute. You kick off with some questions, respond to the answers and improvise a little, earning yourself another five minutes’ attention from the audience, who are actually starting to like you. Then you use a little bit of Powerpoint. You slip up, admit it, smile and recover – they love it. All the rehearsal comes into play – your preparation makes you come across as credible and relaxed. You move around, making the environment ‘yours’.
You finish with a punchy final message, say ‘Thank you’ and they actually clap – the feeling is simply wonderful. The room is filled with energy: hands shoot up to ask questions, and there are so many you don’t have time to answer them all. Beaming, you go and sit down, while people congratulate you. You’re elated for the next four hours, looking forward to the next opportunity, thinking about all the things you can do next time.
There’s no such thing, obviously. The good start guarantees nothing more than a minute of the audience’s optimistic attention, itself nothing more than an opportunity to earn a few more minutes of their time. However, the bad start guarantees an uphill struggle.
Give yourself the best chance of success: start well.