When you open your presentation, you have just thirty seconds to command your audience’s attention. Don’t waste your opening words. Prepare a winning opening and give it extra attention as you rehearse your presentation.
A relevant and compelling quote is one way to open a presentation and engage your audience. General Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the ability to decide what has to be done and then to get people to want to do it.” When I talk on leadership, I might start with that quote. I’m also a believer in quoting others besides Dead White Men – not that many haven’t said wonderful and true things.
Consider quoting live individuals. When I’m talking about getting and keeping customers, I say, “As Bill Gates said, ‘When you lose a customer, you lose two ways. First, you don’t get their money. And second, your competitor does.'” I pantomime stabbing myself in the heart, which usually gets a laugh.
Quotes can be both informative and surprising. As the great philosopher Raquel Welch said, “Style is being yourself, but on purpose.” I add, “Every time you stand up to address an audience, you have to be yourself, but slightly larger than life. In other words, on purpose.”
A great source for quotes is the very audience you are addressing or people they are familiar with. At a four-day Texas Instruments conference I told the audience, “I’m here to tell you how to future-proof your careers.” I had heard their chairman use the phrase “future-proof” two days earlier. He said the TI strategy was to future-proof the shareholders’ investment. I borrowed his words to connect with the audience, though they were actually technology users, not investors. The phrase already had the company stamp of approval. What made that engagement so successful was the fact I quoted every single person who had spoken on the program before me over the prior three days.
Any important or recent quote related to the industry or organization you are addressing can get you immediate attention and establish a connection between you and your listeners. I often quote something from my client’s most recent corporate report. Clients tell me, “We’re so glad you quoted our Chairman. We always send the report to our associates, but we don’t think they ever read it.”
Interesting quotes can be used throughout your talk. Unfortunately speakers often go with predictable quotes from sports stars, writers, texts, and celebrities. Don’t bore your audience with familiar and tired quotes.
Get creative. Get ready to take notes. Make a list from your own sources as you ask yourself, “What quote, memorable saying, keen insight, or witticism can I take from…”
- My father, mother, siblings, grandmother/father?
- My teacher or coach?
- My first boss or managers who inspired me?
- My successful or even brilliant clients?
Here are some of my responses to this exercise that you may use if you like – just give me credit!
From my Father, A. H. Fripp:
“Don’t concentrate on making a lot of money, but rather concentrate on becoming the type of person people want to do business with, and you most likely will make a lot of money.”
From my Mother, Edie Fripp:
“Of course it is the inner you that counts, but dress up and look good so you can attract people so they can find out how nice you are, how smart you are, and how valuable you can be to them.”
From my Brother, the legendary guitarist, Robert Fripp:
“Discipline is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.”
(In case you didn’t know, I was a men’s hairstylist for 15 years.)
From a my hairstyling client, the brilliant businessman, Manny Lozano:
“Keep promoting – even when your appointment calendar is full. You need to resell to the clients you already have that this is still the place they want to come.”
A personal favorite from Jerry Seinfeld:
“I will spend an hour editing an eight word sentence into five.”
From me, Patricia Fripp:
“The only thing I ever wanted in business is an unfair advantage.”
When your quotes are new to your audience, your entire message will sound fresh and original.
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“Your presentations on storytelling and superstar sales presentations, executive speech coaching, emcee work for TEDx events and support has had a tremendous impact on our business.”
– Tom Esposito, Director Channel Marketing, Zebra Technologies
Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp works with individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.