Once the opening has captured the attention of the audience, it is necessary to establish the theme or message of the presentation. As in a fine symphony where the composer reveals the theme and then proceeds to create variations on it, the speaker presents the message and then proceeds to develop it with facts, information, and evidence.
The opening is designed to get the attention of the audience. The message statement focuses attention on the subject. It can be a statement of intent, such as, “We are now going to examine the pros and cons of the new budget process.” It can be a question such as, “What are the steps necessary to achieve ISO 9001 Certification by December 15 of next year?” Sometimes the message statement is presented as a proposal of logic such as, “If….is true, then…is also true, and….is the natural result.” The message statement guides the development of the presentation and keeps it from straying away from its purpose or objective.
Beware of the funny story. “For some lamentable reason; the novice feels that he ought to ‘lighten up’ his talk by telling a joke; he assumes that the mantel of Mark Twain has descended on his shoulders. Do not fall into this trap.” –Dale Carnegie
Using evidence is key to the reaching the height of presentation effectiveness. Questions often in the minds of audience members, even if seldom asked, are “Why should I listen to your?” “Why should I believe you?” “Who, besides you, says this?” When we need to convince others of our views, one of our primary tools is the use of evidence.
Evidence Defeats Doubt
“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time—a tremendous whack!” –Winston Churchill