My question is this: Are audiences really all that different from each other? Yes and no.
In terms of their knowledge of and interest in your topic, of course they vary. The audience at a scientific conference is going to be very different from the audience at a food trade show. Different industries, different backgrounds, different demographics, different age groups, different cultures.The list goes on.
However, you can generally assume that all audiences want to be engaged. All audiences want information that's relevant to their lives and work. All audiences want to stay awake and absorbed in your presentation.
In that sense, an engaging opening is what your audience wants. No, they don't want five minutes of thank yous. They could not care less about who you want to acknowledge. They've already read your bio in the conference program (in fact, that's why they are attending your session), so they don't need to know any more about your credentials -- unless that information is particularly relevant to something covered in your presentation and can be woven into your material seamlessly.
I always come back to this question, and I asked it of my client: "What's best for the audience?" Not "What's best for maintaining the status quo?"
If you do what's best for the audience, I guarantee that you and your message will stand out in a sea of sameness, safeness and predictability.
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