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How to Give a Pretty Good Presentation: A Speaking Survival Guide for the Rest of Us by T. J. Walker

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Chapter 4. Kicking Things Off

How Do I Kick Off a Speech? A Joke? A Personal Story? Help!

The beginning of a presentation is a touchy time. On the one hand, you are feeling nervous and might not be quite sure of yourself yet. On the other hand, the audience is nervous for a different reason: they are worried that you might be about to bore them to death and perhaps they should have brought more reading material, called in sick, or located some cyanide tablets. Everyone—including you—is on edge!

So that's why people like to start off a presentation with a joke. The only problem is that it's hard to be funny. My advice? Don't bother. After all, you aren't trying to get booked at the local Comedy Cellar on Saturday night; so don't give yourself all the pressure of trying to be funny on demand. You aren't a trained seal!

To be a pretty good presenter, you only have to make one decision about the following two options when it comes to starting your speech: (1) Are you going to talk about yourself? Or (2) are you going to talk about something that is remotely interesting to your audience?

If you're George Clooney, you can talk about yourself and people will find that interesting. However, if you are not a famous movie star, my recommendation is to discuss something of interest to your audience within the first five seconds of opening your mouth.

Most awful presenters spend the first five minutes saying the following boring stuff: "I'm happy to be here; thank you for that wonderful introduction. ...

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