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Building Tension and Starting Your Presentation with a PUNCH

This lesson is a part of an audio course How to Present Like a Professional Speaker by Andy Edwards

In the last lesson, we completed all we need to do before the talk itself… we have written and practiced our speech to the mantra Write your words in two thirds… to ensure you finish on time and you know exactly to whom you should introduce yourself on the day.

Now we are going to get into the mistakes, hints, and tips for when you START your speech.

Consider this analogy…

Imagine the 100 meters final at the Olympics. The commentators have introduced the runners, and they have taken their appropriate lanes. They crouch down as the commentator says hi or her final words before the race starts. You hear the starter say: Take your mark…. SET!

At that point, the tension in the stadium is at its highest. Everyone is in a state of anticipation, ready for the off. Concentration and attention combine in a breath-holding few seconds.

As a speaker, you want to emulate this. You want the audience to be utterly locked in to you and your first statement. This is why it's so important to get someone else to introduce you and certainlky someone else to tell the audience where the fire doors are, that there are no planned fire drills that day, where the toilets are – and the timing of the first coffee break.

If these are the first things an audience hears from YOU, then you have zero opportunity to build up that anticipation and subsequent engagement of that audience. So, the first thing you do and say are utterly crucial. Start how you mean to go on. Let me explain

"Hello – thanks for having me I am delighted to be here. This really is a lovely city, and the hotel is marvellous. As you heard, my name is Andy Edwards and I am a behavioural psychologist. I work for xyz organisation, who have sponsored one of the stands in the foyer – so please go visit. And I want to talk to you today about people working together." "By the way, can everyone hear me at the back?" I whilst tapping microphone. This isn't an exaggeration… it's the kind of kick-off that most non-professional speakers derive.

By the way, something else I see is when the previous speaker has been particularly good, and the next speaker says, "Well. How do you follow that." It serves no-one to be self-deprecating or to compare yourself unfavourably in comparison to the previous speaker.

Even if you haven't been introduced – and are expected to do that yourself, my suggestion is that you don't just pile in. Remember to keep that tension.

Even on the back of – Our next speaker is Andy Edwards… you still have the chance to hold the audience in the palm of your hand. Here's what you do…

Walk to your position on the stage. Take your time… it may feel excruciating and the silence overbearing – but it's great for building that tension! Your stage position, may or may not be behind the podium. Personally, I prefer NOT to be behind the podium – up to you. Then you Stop, take a breath, and look out into the audience… pan across the delegates if the audience is a large one. You may decide to smile, frown, nod to yourself, sigh – or another obvious body language signal – which will depend on what you say or do next…. The audience have no idea what to expect, they are in that magic moment between SET and the starter pistol.

At which point you PUNCH them.

Obviously not physically – although that would certainly get their attention! No PUNCH is an acronym for the style of what you say or do first. Whatever that is, make in either:

P- Personal. U-Unexpected. N- Novel. C- Controversial or H- Humorous. You could even combine a couple of these to make it Personal and Humorous. Unexpected and Controversial, Novel, and personal. You get the idea.

Great examples include questions, statistics, quotes, and even an action.

One set of words I use a lot is, "What do people say about you when you're not there?"

I have seen some excellent speakers use their own versions. One asks, "Do you hear voices in your head?"

Another speaker starts form off the stage, so you can't actually see him. His speech starts with the words "When I was at school – I was invisible"

Yet another speaker stares at the audience for a few seconds, then takes out a balloon and starts to blow it up.

I've seen a top speaker walk on stage, take out a large tissue, and proceed to sneeze into it.

The starter pistol has fired, and the next stage is to translate that into an emotional response in your audience.

Obviously, what you say or do 1st needs to tie in with your presentation's ultimate message. So, you couldn't walk in wearing a pair of running shorts without a good reason!

Your task for this lesson is to write out YOUR punch. What will you say or do to maintain that wonderful tension and engagement? And don't be restricted to just one – try a few different ones out.

Anyway – if you have punched your audience… you are now in the top 25% of speakers on the circuit… you have just become the person who… said or did whatever it is. You are already memorable to your audience. They are totally in thrall to you wondering what on earth happens next. So, in the next lesson, we'll tell them.

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Written by

Andy Edwards

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