Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Crafting a Powerhouse Introduction

Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Crafting a Powerhouse Introduction

Article excerpt

Crafting a Powerhouse Introduction

An introduction, according to Random House, is "the preliminary part leading up to the main part."

The "main part" is what we trainers do best. We create new training programs by conducting solid needs analyses and building in sound learning objectives. So the guts of our programs--the main parts--are triumpsh of professionalism. What we don't do as well-in fact, may not do at all--is to create the "preliminary parts leading up to the main parts." But if programs are to be successful, we must recognize the importance of crafting powerhouse introductions.

Most of us give little time or thought to introductions. They are just words we say before we get down to business. So we carelessly fritter away those valuable minutes at the beginning of the program--precisely the time when we want to be the most engaging and competent.

Consiser how first impressions shape your participants' expectations of a program. A well-planned and delivered introduction motivates paricipants to hear you out. That is essential if change--the desired outcome of any training session--is to occur. You can't motivate people if you don't catch them at the start.

So what do you want to accomplish in an introduction? You want safe passage through the high-stakes opening and a segue into that "main part" mentioned above. You want to

* capture attention and interest;

* demonstrate your competence, confidence, and enthusiasm;

* link workshop objectives to participant needs and concerns;

* challenge participants to seek change.

An introduction is only a small piece of a training program. It will take only 15 to 30 minutes, only six percent of an eight-hour training day. But it's worth it. If you don't accomplish your objectives in the introduction, the other 94 percent of your program may fail.

We'll discuss each objective and offer strategies to achieve it.

Capture attention and interest

Think of the last workshop you attended as a participant. What thoughts went through your mind as you waited for the presenter to begin?

"Not many people here. I wonder why."

"There's a great restaurant across the street; I think I'll go there for diner."

"My report is due! My budget is due! My schedule is due!"

You weren't alone in your musings. Everyone is busy with his or her own thoughs--the myriad projects, plans, ideas, and schemes that are part of our personal and business lives. Your first challenge is to wrest attention from those distractions and turn it toward a common focal point--the workshop.

"Hit with high energy and a strong, unhesitating first sentence," say Niki Flacks and Robert Rasberry, in their book, Power Talk. "Audiences tend to be slow to warm up. If you are equally slow getting your motor running, it may be disastrous. By the time you are ready to fire your audience, they've already dozed off."

Start with enthusiasm. Tell a colorful story. Reveal a startling or unusual fact. Quote from an expert revered by your audience. Consider a humorous anecdote or a poem that captures the message of the workshop or the mood of the participants. If you have the knack, tell a joke with a pertinent twist. Or try a metaphor, such as the following excerpt from The Economist, which began an article with the following passage:

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. Whenn the sun comes up, youhd better be running."

Such words, spoken loudly, clearly, and without hesitation, have power and imagery. They are short, crisp, and to the point. They capture the interest and attention of the audience, who will smile, nod in agreement, and settle back to hear what the speaker is going to say next. …

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