Sunday, December 13, 2009

3...2...1 Lift Off!

My five-year old son is passionately interested in space shuttles.

As a near complete ignoramus on the subject, I am grateful to be learning new things from him each day.

Just recently, for instance, he opened my eyes to the wonder of the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs). I had no idea, for example, that two SRBs provide the main thrust to lift the shuttle off the launch pad. Once the shuttle has reached an altitude of 150,000, the rockets drop into the ocean and are subsequently recovered.

Imagine that.

These enormous rockets' sole purpose is the get the shuttle on it's way.

Then it hit me.

This is what's missing from so many presentations.

So often, we begin a presentation with hesitation and self-deprecation, when what we really need is 2,800,000 pounds of force. Without a powerful lift-off, your presentation will never get off the ground.

What every presentation needs is a pair of Solid Rocket Boosters.

Let's call the first one the "Content Rocket Booster." Get right into the heart of your message. Don't waste time with pleasanteries. Demonstrate immediately that you have something significant to offer your listeners.

Let's call the second one the "Delivery Rocket Booster." This rocket takes off from the moment you walk up to the podium. Even your most powerful content will lose it's liftoff force if it is not supported by your delivery.

And the amazing thing about your SRBs? Like the space shuttle SRBs, you can reuse them again and again. Once you have developed one powerful opener, you can replicate much of the energy, structure, and delivery in subsequent presentations.

From the Green Room: Think of your opener as a space shuttle liftoff. You need extra power - in both content and delivery - to fully capture the audience's attention and get your speech off the ground.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't conventional public speaking wisdom say that a good speech expends some but not a lot of fire power in the opening but rather builds inexorably towards the momentous lift-off?

Aaron Dragushan said...

Anonymous - I think the point is to immediately engage your audience. Perhaps something more interesting than the usual blah blah blah of your background or experience and qualifications. That's what I take from it anyways.

Great post!

Ian Griffin said...

There's some validity in the first comment. It's effective if a speaker starts out slowly and then gradually builds to a crescendo. I've seen Bill Clinton speak in person and his initial few minutes were restrained, a little quiet. Then the full force of his eloquence took over. This strategy will only work if the speaker can rise to the occasion. For less capable speakers rehearsing a powerful opening will grab the audience's attention and propel them forward.

Either way, the analogy works (since the space rockets do hover on the launch pad until they rise majestically.

Just as long as when the booster rockets are jettisoned they don't fall on the people in the back row...

Sarah Gershman said...

Great point about Bill Clinton, but I agree that most people cannot afford to start slow. Unless you are speaking to an audience that already loves you, the extra power in the beginning is vital to get them on board.

It goes without saying that a speech with a terrific beginning but that goes nowhere...goes nowhere.

Thank you for reading!

Cynthia Samuels said...

This is a great point! When I was a kid in "forensics" (speech competitions) they called it the "attention step" and I found it also worked in finals and job interviews.

Great piece Sarah - no surprise there though.

Sarah Gershman said...

Thank you, Cindy!

Frank Damelio said...


Excellent job showing how important are both CONTENT and DELIVERY. I enjoyed your analogy and I think it will be memorable for your readers! Best,

Frank Damelio

Sarah Gershman said...

Thank you so much for your reading and for your comment, Frank.

Donna Childs said...

Excellent post and well put together to help speakers remember to 'boost' our presentations into outer space. thank you fordoing such a good job with your topic and delivery.

Sarah Gershman said...

Thank you for your comment, Donna!