Stories, both funny and serious, are the way to begin a persuasive presentation because they engage an audience and invite an empathetic response. When you tell a story about the most embarrassing moment in your life, audience members either start thinking about a similar event in their lives or imagine being put into your story’s situation.
I'm not telling you to avoid jokes, humor is one of the most powerful persuasive tools a presenter has. It's a matter of choosing the right tool for the time and task. Humor has the power to invite an audience to like you, and lighten an audience’s critical thinking and thus resistance to change. Powerful things.
But as you start a persuasive presentation your priorities should be different. You MUST get your audience INVOLVED right from the start. This is where stories are just more powerful.
I did a survey about this for my book, "Presentations That Change Minds."
In the survey, 41.8% of presenters said they begin their business presentations with a humorous story, and 37.8% with a serious story. Only 19.3% begin presentations with a joke and only 14 % of presenters jump right into their content without any opening.
A you plan your next presentation, look for a story that get your audience involved with your subject matter.
Click on the chart to see the survey results.