Effective Presentation Opener

Need to add a little fizzle to your training session? Use this object lesson from Bob Pike Group Senior Training Consultant Doug McCallum. You’ll need a glass of water, one Advil and an Alka-Seltzer tablet.



Use an opener to relax your audience. Participants are more likely to participate if they are comfortable. Also, introducing a lesson topic in a surprising way can increase student interest and motivation. 

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In McCallum’s example, he talks about how training can be dull and lifeless if all we have is the content. He illustrates this by putting an Alka-Seltzer tablet into a glass of water. What the audience doesn’t realize is that an Advil tablet was already at the bottom of the glass. Because of the interaction between the two medicines, the Alka-Seltzer will not do anything when added. “In training,” he said, “we add the spark.” From here, invite audience participation to add other content-related learning points from the exercise. 

There are 6 Keys of An Opener

1) Breaks preoccupation

2) Facilitates networking

3) Relevant to the content

4) Maintains or enhances self-esteem

5) It is fun for the trainer and the participant

6) There is a curiosity factor

Here are a few openers to try in your next session: ask for a show of hands, ask a discussion question, use an unusual statistic, or use a metaphor or analogy. For even more ideas to capture and hold attention, attend one of our Presentation Skills Workshops

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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