When it comes to starting a workout on the treadmill, there’s a common pattern. Most people start with their feet on the track belt and slowly increase the speed until they reach the pace at which they want to walk or run. But not everyone does it this way. I’m sure you’ve seen people who straddle the track with their feet on the stable outsides of the treadmill. They crank the machine up to their max running speed, grab on to the handrails, and jump.
As I was running on the treadmill this past week, the connection struck me. Different speakers begin their presentations in different ways, just like these runners. There are jump starts in presentations, too. And it’s actually one of the more modern ways to begin. It’s not as common these days for speakers to give long, drawn out introductions anymore. Instead, we see speakers who simply jump in, as if they were in the middle of a conversation already.
This type of jump start intro can really grab the attention of your audience and set an exciting pace for your presentation. If you are brave enough to try one (and I hope you are), here’s how you do it.
A runner who is going to jump onto a treadmill has to commit ahead of time. The same is true for presentations that begin this way. You have to be committed to tackling the intro. A tentative commitment or low-energy start simply won’t work for this type of beginning.
In order to pull off a great presentation jump start, you need to begin like you have something important to tell the audience. Your body language needs to communicate: “this can’t wait.” That means your volume needs to be a little louder, your pace needs to be a little quicker, your facial expressions need to be intense, and all of your body language needs to feel intentional. Like jumping on a treadmill, you can’t hesitate. You just have to go for it with all of your body. Your delivery style has to match the excitement of this type of intro.
This is probably the biggest component of the jump start intro. You have to start with content that sounds like it’s continuing rather than beginning. For example, you might normally begin a presentation with something like this: “Thanks for having me. I’ve really been looking forward to being with you. Today we are going to talk about how company culture touches every part of your organization.” However, with a jump start intro, you might say something like: “We can’t keep pretending company culture doesn’t matter.” Or “In the wee hours of the morning, before any of you arrived, your company culture clocked in and got the work day started.”
When you start with content that feels like it is ongoing, the audience engages immediately. They realize the fast pace and have to listen intently to get up to speed. They don’t want to get left behind. And if you start off with a story, many more areas of their brains light up with activity, meaning they are literally more engaged than they are with a more basic introduction.
The pace of a jump start introduction is fast. And it’s fast for a reason. Speakerhub says a fast pace of speech helps to indicate “passion, urgency, excitement, and emotion.” When you jump start your presentation, you establish an energy that is exciting and contagious. In order to get that fast-paced feel, you’ll want to aim for about 160 words per minute during the initial sprint.
But that pace doesn’t have to last throughout the presentation. In fact, it’s probably best if later on in the presentation you slow the pace down and give the audience a chance to catch their breaths. Aim for a more conversational speaking rate of 120-150 words per minute for the majority of presentation.
The jump start is just one of many strategies for starting a presentation. But it’s one that we are seeming more and more of as speakers learn to let old expectations and patterns fall away in exchange for new methods of communicating. So grab onto those treadmill handrails and get ready to make the leap!
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