Have you ever called someone and prepared to leave a message only to hear, "The mailbox is full?" Happens to me often (and yes, I still leave messages). I know, thanks to technology there a number of ways for me to reach people, however, in that moment, in that instance, I don't want to text, instant message or use anything else other than my voice (especially if I'm driving). The bottom line, nonetheless, is that their mailbox is full.
I believe that the people that come to our sessions, the people who sit in the audience and the people that we call on (if we're in sales) have full "life" mailboxes. There is so much on their mind. They are preoccupied with life stuff, family stuff, work stuff, personal stuff, patient stuff, client stuff, relationship stuff, health stuff (I could go on). Do you believe as a speaker, a trainer, a sales professional or the like that you can get their full attention at the outset of any presentation by opening with: "Good morning," "Good evening," "Today, I'm going to discuss," "Thank you for coming," and "Here are today's objectives." Those opening statements are as engaging as a conference call. They do not break preoccupation and they don't build enthusiasm.
What should you do? You can involve them in your opener. Give them something to do. Tell a story and let them be a part of it. Share a powerful statistic or quote...and do it in a BIG way. I believe that speakers undervalue the significance of the opener (closers too, but that's for another journal). How much prep time do you put towards your opener? Remember, your opener should: 1. set the tone for your presentation; 2. pique their curiosity; 3. establish your credibility; 4. maintain or lift their self-esteem; get them engaged; give you an opportunity to assess their readiness; and finally, break their preoccupation. People are not going to put what's on their mind on hold just because you have something to say. You have to introduce your information in an impactful way so that they'll make room for your message. Your opener is the bow and wrapping paper and your information is the gift.