Book review: “Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story”


In "Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story," author Jerry Weissman talks about the importance of capturing your audience’s attention at the beginning of a presentation. He warns about launching into your presentation "at full speed" because you would mentally bypass your audience and they would have a hard time catching up.

He suggests seven different "opening gambits" or short statements designed to simultaneously grab the attention of your audience and help launch into your presentation, "in a comfortable, conversational manner." [p 83]

The seven Opening Gambits

  1. QUESTION. A question directed at members of the audience.
  2. FACTOID. A striking statistic or little-known fact.
  3. RETROSPECTIVE/PROSPECTIVE. A look backward or forward.
  4. ANECDOTE. A short human interest story.
  5. QUOTATION. An endorsement about your business from a respected source.
  6. APHORISM. A familiar saying.
  7. ANALOGY. A comparison between two seemingly unrelated items that helps to illuminate a complex, arcane, or obscure topic.

Weissman says that you can combine two or three of these options to create your opening gambit.

He also says that your opening should be linked to what he calls your "Point B" or your "call to action" (what you want the listeners to know or do) as a result of your talk. By foreshadowing your "Point B," you make it more likely that your audience will recognize and act on it when you get to it.

For example, your opening might say, "When you. . . I know you’ll want to. . ." as a way of alerting the audience to what is expected of them. They will then listen to your "proof" in the context of those expectations.

I used this book recently to prepare a presentation. It’s excellent, equally strong on content and visuals. It is useful for any kind of presentation, whether for marketing purposes, in the courtroom or boardroom.