The First 7 Minutes

Last week, I wrote about the importance of the First 7 Seconds of a presentation. I stand by that idea – first impressions are formed quickly, and they can set the tone for all that follows. However, if the first 7 seconds are critical to earn a hearing, the first 7 minutes may determine if your message makes a difference.

Over dinner one night, I was talking with speaker and author John Ortberg about my on-going challenge of creating compelling beginnings to my presentations. I’ll never forget his response.
Between bites of pie, he said, "It’s actually quite simple… all you have to do is convince your audience that what you’re about to tell them is wildly important to them.” He took another bite and then added, “You’ve got about 5 - 7 minutes to do it.” He took another bite and said, “If you haven’t convinced them in 7 minutes, you should sit down.”
This was one of the most sobering ideas I had encountered in a long time. Think about all the presentations you’ve given in which you DID NOT convince people what you had to say was wildly important to them. As I think about all the times I’ve failed at this, I never sat down. Instead, I went on to tell them whatever I wanted to tell them. The truth – probably with no effect at all!
So, how do you convince people that what you have to say is wildly important to them? Here are three ideas to consider.
Make the audience your focus – My friend, Nancy Duarte, talks about making the audience the hero. Learn as much as possible about your audience – in advance. What are their hopes, their fears, and their issues? What do they already know about your topic? What are their felt needs?
Structure your presentation to highlight relevance early – I’m sure you believe there is relevance and applicability in your content. Establish this early with your audience. Don’t wait until the last five minutes. If you do, the chances are good they won’t be with you.
Be sure you’ve got something that is important to the audience – If you don’t, why are you making a presentation? Perhaps your message could best be delivered in a different format – maybe an email. Or, maybe you’ve got the wrong audience. One thing audiences look for instinctively is authenticity… you can’t fake it. If your content isn’t applicable to the people you’re speaking to, you need to go back to the drawing board.
So, what have you got to say to people and WHY DOES IT MATTER TO THEM? You’ve got 7 minutes…[GLS_Shield]


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