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A Lesson on Presentation from the Beatles


By Bob Goodyear

Last month my wife and I took a 24-hour trip to Las Vegas. We went just to see the Cirque du Soleil show called The Beatles LOVE. It’s a show that we both really enjoy. As a matter of fact, this was my fourth time in 10 years to see it.

While the acts in the show have changed over the years, the one constant theme is the Beatles’ music. This time while watching the show, I noticed something about the music that I had not paid attention to before. There seemed to be a pattern that many of the songs followed. I decided to investigate further.

Several years ago I bought the box set “The Beatles (The Original Studio Recordings)” so I have most of their music on hand. I returned home and listened to 226 songs. Yes, that takes a while but it was worth it to me. I wanted to hear the beginning of each of the songs because that was part of the pattern I was hearing. I found that 70% of the songs started in one of three ways. They either started singing within the first second of the song, or within 5 seconds of the beginning, or with what I call a non-standard rock and roll beginning which could include a different instrument other than a guitar or drum or an interesting set of chords that weren’t traditionally associated with rock and roll at the time. This was quite surprising to me!

So what does this have to do with presenting? When we present, we need to begin with something that is immediately interesting. I call it a bang. In other words, get into the presentation immediately and don’t make your opening remarks like everyone else does. Too many times I’ve seen presenters begin with what I call the “Unpleasant Pleasantries.” That’s where a speaker gets up and starts saying how glad they are to be there, it’s a beautiful day in “Name Your City,” or thanking the person or group who invited them to speak.

Begin with a bang instead. How can you do that? I talk about 20 different ways to start a presentation but here are just a few.

  1. Immediately start with a story. I’ve written several times about the importance of stories in a presentation. Start with one and get your audience’s attention immediately.
  2. Begin with an interesting quote. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” may not be the best quote to start wit,h however. Don’t use a quote that everyone already knows because that’s not interesting at all. Use something that is relevant to your topic but new for your audience. With a new or unknown quote, your audience will tune in to see what you will do with it.
  3. Start with a powerful question. Don’t necessarily start with a yes/no question. Begin with an open-ended question that gets your audience to think. For example, if you are going to be talking about personal finance, you might start by asking a question like “If your money could talk to you, what would it say”? I heard that question at the beginning of a speech and it immediately got my attention.
  4. You can even start with a short music or video clip. Make it less than a minute and grab the attention of your audience quickly.

My words of advice to you today are simply to follow the example of The Beatles. They began so many of their songs with something that gets attention. While I’m not suggesting you start out by singing, I do suggest that you begin with a bang and get your audience’s attention quickly. If you do this, your audience may be singing “We love you, yeah, yeah, yeah”!

Bob Goodyear is a veteran speaker on technology who understands the communications challenges that technical professionals face. Find out how Bob can help your organization with its presentation. Reach Bob by email or by phone at 678.447.7272.