Partners in Performance Blog

How to Start a Presentation: 5 Ways to Create a Curiosity Gap

How-to-Start-a-PresentationWhat’s a great way to start a presentation? Have you considered opening up a “Curiosity Gap”?

Here’s how you don’t want to start… How many of us have heard this opening line to a presentation:

  • “Good Morning. I know you’re very busy. I don’t want to waste your time so I’ll get through this information as quickly as possible.”
  • Or, “I recognize I’m the only thing standing between you and lunch.”

On the surface these sound innocent enough – after all, you’re just being courteous, right?

In fact, when you start a presentation with these opening phrases, you encourage the audience to think that spending time listening to your presentation will interrupt their day. You don’t want to push them away.

The goal of a well-crafted opening is to grab their attention in a way that indicates the time spent will be well worth it.

Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, Why Some Ideas Survive and Other Die, introduced the notion of a “curiosity gap”; a gap in knowledge that we as humans have a need to fill. “…We need to open the gap before we close it.”

Your captivating opening comments should do just that, open a curiosity gap that encourages the audience to say:

  • “That’s interesting, tell me more.”
  • Or, “I had no idea that was possible. How did you do that?”
  • Or, “Wow, what happened next?”

The content of your presentation will fill the gap.

How do you create a curiosity gap? Here are five ideas to trigger your imagination:

  1. Ask a Question: “We did it last year, can we do it again”? The gap has been opened by this rhetorical question. The audience wants to know if you can do it again and how you’ll do it again. You might also ask a real question that speaks to the problem you are addressing, “By a show of hands, how many of you have spent over an hour filling out this form? Did it make you mad? I have a solution that cuts the time to 10 minutes.” Again, you’ve opened a gap that will be filled by your content.
  2. Make a Provocative Statement: “It’s time for us to take an extraordinary step.” What step? How extraordinary?
  3. Cite an Expert: “Matt Carter, author of Designing Science Presentations, estimates that a well-designed professional slide presentation requires between 20 and 150 hours of preparation.” The gap: Why so much time?
  4. Tell a Relevant Story: “In my 20 years in sales, I’ve only had one customer I just couldn’t stand. I’d like to tell you how that customer turned into my strongest advocate.” Stories are powerful but you must keep them short and poignant. They must have everything to do with what you are going to cover in your presentation. It helps to rehearse the story several times before you tell it.
  5. Use a Quotation: The rabbit in Alice in Wonderland said to Alice, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there.” Then tie that quote to the purpose or your presentation. “We know exactly which path to take and exactly where we’re headed. I’m here today to walk you down that path.”

Differentiate yourself from other presenters by starting a presentation in an interesting, captivating and relevant way. Now your audiences will have something to talk about at lunch – your presentation!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to prepare, construct and deliver persuasive presentations call me. 905-877-5808

This is a guest post from my associate Judie Knoerle, owner of Red Cup Presentations and author of UPFRONT Persuasion Through Presentation

This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on November 22, 2013 in Presentation Skills, Presentation Structure. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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