Break the ice – use an ‘icebreaker’

What is an icebreaker and how should you start? 

Working out how to begin a workplace presentation can be quite tricky at times.  Most people tell me that prior to attending my Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass they are inclined to just open their meetings with the usual,  “Hi everyone and thanks for coming today, I know you’re busy so I won’t take up too much of your time and we’ll try and get out of here as quickly as possible”.  This is a terrible opening. It does not inspire or engage your audience to want to sit on the edge of their chair busting for the presenter to start enlightening them!

Well certainly some public speakers prefer to begin with an icebreaker.  An icebreaker is an interesting fact, figure, story, picture or statistic that you deliver or show in your first 30 seconds to hook your audience’s attention so they ‘sit up and take notice’ of what you have to say. It’s called the icebreaker because its job is to ‘break the ice’.

If you like the idea of beginning your presentation with an icebreaker, then read on.

What are some examples of good icebreakers?

Here are some of my favourite icebreakers I have heard over the years:

‘Of all the tax we pay in one year, 30% goes on welfare and half of that on fraudulent claims. My name is (name) and I’m here today to talk with you about the allocation of welfare in our society.’

‘1 in 6 people in Australia claim they are bullied. My name is (name) and I’m here today to help you understand the impact of your cultural footprint on your organisation.’

‘Did you know that if we laid all the scotch finger biscuits that we manufacture in one year from end to end, they would stretch from here to New York – that’s a lot of scotch finger biscuits! Welcome everyone! I’m here today to talk with you about the manufacture of our sweet biscuit range.’

 So as you can see, the general pattern of an icebreaker is to:

  1. Deliver an interesting fact, figure or statistic.
  2. Announce your name or welcome the audience to the presentation.
  3. Tell the audience what you are there to talk about, or what they will achieve from being in your presentation.

What else do you need to know about delivering an icebreaker?

I’ll list the key points about delivering icebreakers here:

  • Icebreakers are delivered at the start of your presentation.
  • They must link to your content or key message.
  • They must be delivered in a conversational way, or you’ll look like you’ve been reading a presentation skills newsletter!

You may also have realised that some icebreakers don’t always build rapport.  In fact, some icebreakers actually break rapport with your audience. So be careful. I suggest that icebreakers should be used selectively because a poorly scripted or poorly executed icebreaker can ruin the best of well structured presentations. If you decide to use an icebreaker make sure you use it well.

Here’s a video that shows you exactly how you can nail an icebreaker.

Happy presenting!

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