Key ingredients for a good open and close - The Pickering Group

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Key ingredients for a good open and close

What’s the most important section of any presentation?

I’ll give you a hint – you’re reading it right now.

The opening lines of a presentation are crucial. It’s when your audience starts to form their assumptions about you and your message – and these first impressions can be hard to shift later down the line. Nail your first three minutes with a new audience, and you have a much better chance of keeping them engaged throughout the rest of your presentation.

Equally, end your talk with a strong, closing remark that has impact and your listeners will leave with your message ringing in their ears.

So, what are the ingredients of good opening and closing statements?

Create impact at minute zero

Like with any form of communication to a cold audience, you should start with a hook. This is your one-liner to grab attention, and spark interest in your topic.

Here are a few techniques to craft effective hooks:

  • Ask a question (see the start of this message!)
  • Offer a shocking or compelling fact
  • Share a short, relevant story
  • Present a puzzle or riddle
  • Define your dilemma – “Team, we have a problem…”

If you’re struggling to find a compelling opening line, think about the primary obstacle you face in changing your audience’s perspective. Now try to destroy that obstacle in just a few strong sentences – and you’ve got a powerful hook to start your presentation.

Establish yourself and your message

For new audiences, this moment is crucial. It’s the chance to bring your audience up to speed with who you are, and what kind of perspective you’re bringing to the topic. Here, you’ll want to lay out who you are (establish credibility), the purpose of your presentation and what your audience can expect to take away.

This doesn’t have to be detailed – you’re not giving an airline safety presentation. Instead, offer a simple roadmap for what you’ll help them uncover – ie: I’ll introduce you to a range of techniques for crafting engaging opening statements that make an impact.

Wrap it up with a strong closing

Nothing’s more awkward than an audience questioning whether a presenter is finished speaking. To avoid tentative claps and pregnant pauses, make sure you have a short and clear closing statement prepared.

This should include a simple summary, covering the main bullet points, and a clear call to action. Answer the “what now?” for your audience – leave them with clear next steps to learn or how they get further involved.

In some cases, you might also include a Q&A. Just be sure that when your time is up, you have an exit strategy. Finish off strong, with a closing remark that brings your audience back to your purpose statement. Maybe something like…

I’ll leave you with this – crafting impactful opening and closing remarks not only makes it easier to assemble your core content, it also makes your audience more receptive to listening and engaging with your key messages. Make these moments count, and your presentation will be better for it.

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