When I was a kid, we had a giant road atlas stuffed under the seat of our green station wagon. I loved it. Whenever we embarked on a road trip, my dad would pull out the atlas and show us where we were and where we were headed. Something about seeing our journey on the map was both exciting and comforting to me.

But I don’t think my kids have ever seen an atlas. Now technology helps us get where we are going. But have you tried navigating when you don’t have your phone or you can’t get service? It’s a helpless and frustrating feeling.

This is the last installment of our 5-part blog series exploring the 5 goals speech experts say you should aim to accomplish in your introduction: get the audience’s attention, show the value and relevance of your ideas, establish your credibility, state your main idea, and provide a verbal map of the presentation.

Providing a verbal map means taking just a few sentences to tell the audience where you are headed during your presentation. Some people call this a “preview of main points.” It’s simply taking time to give the audience the big picture of where you are going together. Today, we’ll look at why providing a verbal map brings both excitement and comfort to your audience the same way that old atlas did for me.

Excitement

When you take time in your introduction to give the audience a small taste of what is coming up, it can build excitement. But it’s important that your preview doesn’t come off like a list of points on your outline. Your preview should make the audience want more.

Think about movie trailers. They do two things. First, they collapse the story in way that helps the audience understand the basic plot without giving everything away. Second, they release a few of the great moments from the film that make you want to go see it. Use this strategy when developing your verbal map. Give them an overview of the story and release just enough of what is to come to make them excited for more.

Another strategy for building excitement comes from the unofficial king of product launches, Steve Jobs. New York Times bestselling author and a Forbes top 10 marketer, Neil Patel says when Jobs speaks about a new Apple product, he doesn’t focus on the product, he focuses on the people. He says the audience cares “about their problems and how your product [or company, or ideas] are going to fit into their life.” In your preview, focus on how the information you are about to share will affect your listeners. Highlight the things that will matter most to them.

Comfort

When you give the audience an idea of what the presentation entails, it’s reassuring to them. That’s because audience members can easily feel like their role is unimportant. A verbal map changes the audience’s role from passenger to participant. Since they know where you are headed, they can now actively trace the movements of the journey.

This not only puts them at ease, but it actually helps them pay attention. Professor J.W. Niemantsverdriet studied listeners’ attention levels during a presentation and found that people tend to listen most at the beginning and end of the presentations. During the middle of a presentation, attention gradually drops to as little as “10 to 20 percent of its original level.” This attention curve suggests that breaking the presentation into smaller bits, points, or movements will keep the audience interested. Why? The main points that you’ve previewed become like mini presentations, each with their own introduction and conclusion. So the audience’s attention will peak again at the beginning and end of each main point that you address.

A simple verbal map in the introduction of your presentation will help to both excite and comfort your audience. When you tell your listeners where they are headed, focusing on how the journey benefits them, you’ll be off to a great start.

We’ve identified 5 goals for creating a powerful introduction. These goals come from scientific studies and field-tested practice, as do all of our tips for creating and delivering great presentations. Ready to learn more?

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