What presenters can learn from how TV shows start; Issue #311 May 13, 2014

When you watch a TV show these days, whether it is a half-hour sitcom or a one hour drama, how does it start? Why is that relevant to presenters? That’s what this article is all about.


The change in TV shows

In the past, TV shows started with a listing of the credits (actors, directors, writers, etc.) and a message about who was sponsoring the show. People kept watching because there really wasn’t any alternative. There were only three or four channels, so there wasn’t much else to select from. And there was no remote control, so changing the channel involved the work of getting up off the couch, walking over to the TV, changing the channel, and perhaps adjusting the antenna as well to improve the reception of the new channel. Too much work and not enough reward, so people watched the opening roll.

Today, TV shows don’t start with credits. They start with a scene that gets you immediately involved with the story. Only after you have seen an exciting start to the story do they show the credits and the first commercials. Why the change? Because the landscape has changed. There are hundreds of channels to choose from and changing to another program is a quick tap on the remote. If they don’t get you hooked quickly, you will move on.

How this change has occurred in presentations too

So how does this apply to presentations you ask? I see the same change in presentations that has occurred in TV.

In the past, presenters could start with a long agenda and explanation of all the work that went into the presentation, the data sources, and other background information. There wasn’t anything else the audience could turn their attention to. Leaving was considered extremely rude, so they sat there and suffered through it. But that landscape has drastically changed.

Today, presenters need to grab attention from the start and engage the audience by explaining how this presentation will directly impact them. If not, the audience can easily direct their attention elsewhere, with their smartphone, tablet, or laptop providing an infinite source of alternatives. Whether you think it is rude or not, many people feel it is now acceptable to leave in the middle of a presentation, even with a small audience. So people just get up and walk out if they don’t see the purpose. They have a lot of other work they could be doing.

Your presentation needs to hook the audience from the start

What do presenters need to do today? Make sure that the first 120 seconds of your presentation grabs the interest of the audience. If you need to cover any “credits” type information, do it later on or at the end. Make sure the audience sees the value of paying attention to you instead of turning their attention to devices or other work.

By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don't overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 4.8 million times and liked over 17,000 times on YouTube.