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How to open and close presentations? – Presentation lesson from Mark Powell

to give a successful presentation they say you need to have a good beginning a good ending and keep them close together and sure enough research shows that audiences remember the first and last few minutes of a presentation long after they’ve forgotten most of what was said in the middle psychologists call this the primacy recency effect but you might prefer to think of your opener and your clothes as two bookends holding up your talk to do their job they both need to be strong now starting off by saying good morning introducing yourself thanking your audience for coming apologizing for a small technical problem with your audio visuals and asking if people can hear you at the back is clearly not a strong opening but neither is this I want to talk to you today about the kind of world we in the business community are passing on to the next generation what’s wrong with it it’s short direct and boring let’s see how it might have sounded environmental degradation a declining economy crippling taxes chronic diseases a life expectancy shorter than that of their parents and $30,000 of debt for every man woman and child this is the nightmare world we’re passing on to our kids now that’s a good opening watch how these presenters gain their audience’s attention right at the start good morning sometime in the early 1980s a business traveler called a low-cost carrier called people Express to reserve a flight he was kept on hold for so long he thought to himself either this airline is incredibly busy or incredibly inefficient needless to say the flight was never booked and people Express went out of business in 1987 the name of the business traveler was Richard Branson who recognizing a great business opportunity when he saw it went on to launch Virgin Atlantic airlines and the rest of course is history but my question to you is just how bad does your customer service have to be to turn a potential client into a competitor there was a great book published a few years back called the wisdom of crowds by James Surowiecki in it he refers to the popular TV quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire which I’m sure you’ve all seen as you may know contestants can get help with questions they can’t answer by either phoning a friend or asking the audience and as you might expect calling an intelligent friend helps sixty-five percent of the time in fact but here’s the interesting thing the studio audience isn’t selected on the basis of their intelligence so how often you think they’re able to answer the question correctly twenty-five percent 33 percent the answer is ninety-one percent of the time statistically that’s just amazing and it proves the power of teams I want to say a few things about winning did you know that in all the major golf tournaments over the last 25 years the margin of victory has been less than three strokes in Formula one motor racing so far this season the average time difference between first and second place has been just over seven and a half seconds and remember last summer olympics in the men’s 100 meters butterfly the American swimmer worn by one hundredths of a second one hundredths it was so close that the Serbian team who won silver even filed a protest the these days in business as in sport the difference between winning and losing is practically zero but not quite in every case the winner has that vital edge the figures I’m going to show you this afternoon demonstrate that we too have that marginal but vital edge from your audience’s point of view the end of your talk might be even more important than the beginning these are the words they will be left with after you stop if you’ve ever been to a firework display you’ll know that the biggest brightest fireworks are usually saved for the end this doesn’t mean you have to finish with a bang but you do want to leave a lasting impression watch these presenters clinch the clothes to summarise whenever we have offered bonuses to incentivize our staff in sales HR and manufacturing divisions productivity has increased in some cases quite dramatically but as we saw in R&D; introducing pay by performance has had precisely the opposite effect incentivized research units were on average only half as productive as those working without added incentives what are we to make of this well quite simply it seems bonuses really do make you work harder when your job is pretty routine but when your job is creative incentives just stress you out and actually make you less creative not all clearly we all need to go away and think of a fresh initiative for motivating our most mission-critical employees thanks a lot as you know it’s a tradition in Asia to quote words of wisdom so I’m going to be totally predictable and do the same an ancient philosopher once said a man who chases two rabbits catches neither in our research been chasing too many rabbits for far too long it’s time to stop to prioritize if there’s one thing we now need to do in a word it’s this focus thank you very much at the preparation stage a lot of presenters like to create their clothes first so they know where they’re going and then work backwards finishing up with an attention-grabbing opening but whichever way you plan your talk make sure you always give priority to the first and last three minutes

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