One of my father's old friends told me about this guy he used to know back in the seventies. This guy (let's call him Johnny) was very much into western pulp fiction. He just loved getting lost in that idealized time period, with gunfights and steamy nights, men shooting up each other and drinking untold amounts of whiskey, and sexy women dancing wildly on the stages of saloons. He was a plasterer by profession, so no wonder that sometimes he wanted to get away from the noise of the concrete-mixer, from all the dirt and hard (and sometimes dangerous) work he had to do day-by-day.
Now Johnny had one major requirement, one single demand every single time he opened a new western pulp book. He said that if at least seven people didn't die on the very first page, then the book was worth nothing (Johnny used to have another term here, but you get the gist).
Seven people. Dead. Within the first page.
Talk about first impressions…
I love this little story because it demonstrates how important it is for us presenters to make a good first impression and start our presentations very strongly.
The beginning of a presentation is most probably the only time your entire audience will give you their full and undivided attention. They make subjective conclusions about you very fast (10-15 seconds, and that's including the time you make your entrance) and then what you do within the next few minutes either solidifies those conclusions (most of the time) or makes them change their mind about you (sometimes).
And after those few minutes pass, their attention goes downhill. As Scott Berkun writes in his book Confessions of a Public Speaker at any given time during your presentation, only cca. 30% of your audience will actually pay attention to you – the other 70% are phasing in and out, checking e-mails, browsing the net, writing an sms, daydreaming, checking out that hot girl/guy a few seats next to them, etc. If you hope to influence everybody in your audience during your next speech, well, you're in for a surprise.
What you can do though is to tailor your messages, your story and the overall structure of the presentation to the key decision makers; the people whom you actually want to influence. And to get their attention you have to make the proper entrance and start with a brilliant and strong scene.
First impressions count, and your first few minutes on the stage count double-time. Always put extra effort into getting the most out of that critical time period. Never make an entrance without making a scene.
Seven people dead? How about making it ten?
Get your guns out. Make your presentation. Change their world.