Successful TV commercials have a tight and urgent quality to them – their makers know that they only have 30 seconds in which to grab their audience. Marketers who give live presentations, though, loosen up considerably. They know that they have several minutes in which to make their point.  There is some research, though, that shows that when presented with something new, the brain decides in the first 30 seconds if it wants to be interested. No matter how much or how little time you have, you need to make the first few seconds count. If you don’t, people will tune out and not pay attention to anything that follows. The question is – how do you make the first few seconds count?

Find a button to push

The headlines on Internet articles often use this method. They take some cherished, well-established truth and then oppose it – something like Why Apple never was innovative. This pushes people’s buttons and grabs their attention. Many of these articles don’t even have content that warrants such assertions in the title. They use them nevertheless because a trick like this can be an attention grabber. In a presentation, though, it isn’t a good idea to push people’s buttons in a way that you can’t justify later. If you can find a good, justifiable way, it could work.

Make your audiences think by asking them good, philosophical business questions

This is a popular move. If yours is a presentation on how to market food to businesses, for instance, you could start with questions like “Is Subway really this successful in the business market because it is healthy?”

There are many possibilities – questions like “Are your assumptions about the profitability of catering really valid?” or “Are you as innovative as you think you are?” are likely to get people immediately hooked because they make them think about themselves with some insecurity.

Find a way to say something shocking

Successful marketing presentations are able to startle. While this might be a cheap way to get attention, it’s something that works in a fiercely competitive business. Where do you find startling assertions to make, though? You could go through all the statistics you can find with a fine tooth comb to find something good that has been overlooked by others.

You have to have a soundbite or two

For better or worse, the world has turned out to be entirely about soundbites. Once you have something shocking to say, you need to get it to sound short and pithy. If you don’t have a way to reduce your points to a catchy and provocative soundbite, you might as well pack it up.

People now only listen to people who are able to boil it down. Your soundbites don’t even have to be completely accurate representations of your points. Something vaguely on point will do as long as it’s attractive.

Quote history and unfamiliar proverbs and appear learned

People fear history because they have always failed to find a way to learn it effectively. They also become somewhat insecure in the presence of someone who knows his history. These people seem learned to them. There are plenty of resources on the Internet that can help you find relevant historical quotes to pepper your presentation with. You could look up on the Internet what happened on the day of your presentation 50 years earlier, for instance. You could win instant credibility.

You could say much the same thing for obscure proverbs. People have a fear of foreign languages and all the great cultures out there that they have been unexposed to. There are websites that list hundreds of foreign proverbs that you could easily use to win points with your audience. Say something like An old Japanese proverb comes to mind – “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” If you could include the actual Japanese words, you would be that much more impressive.

Presentations are show business after all. You need to think as much of the style you bring as you do about the substance.