Openers and Closers

One of my clients asked me recently, “Do you have any canned or impromptu openers, intros, etc. for meetings or other gatherings?”

My answer: I wouldn’t say I have something “canned,” but I do have certain things I like to start with such as:

  • a story
  • a question relating to the topic
  • a series of questions leading to a punch line
  • just about anything other than introducing myself in the usual boring fashion

When you open a presentation or speech with company or personal bio information,
it is not only uninteresting for the audience, but it also tends to make you more nervous and stiff. You really want a powerful opening that makes you feel natural, energized, and connected with your audience. You want to draw the audience in immediately, not “sometime later” in the presentation. If you make a poor first impression, you may have difficulty changing that impression during the course of your presentation. You also make it more challenging for yourself to feel present and confident. I find it easier to start that way than try to build up to it.

It is also important to note that people tend to remember what you say first and what you say last, rather than what you say in the middle. Let’s say you choose to open with a question and have the audience provide answers. A great closing would be to reference the question and answers you and the audience discussed at the beginning and provide some closure to that discussion. Or perhaps you start with a story and then end or continue that same story at the end. Bringing a presentation full circle from an opening point and back to that same point in closing leaves a strong impression on your audience.