The dictionary definition of the word overture is: an instrumental prelude to an opera. Among many famous ones are the overtures to Rossini’s William Tell, Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and Wagner’s Tannhauser. What all these great composers had in common was their understanding of the importance of engaging the audience’s senses from the outset, raising the emotional temperature and building anticipation for the performance that followed.
Perhaps the commonest mistake I come across when coaching rehearsals is the complete lack of an overture. The lack of any opening that surprises or engages.
Too often the starting point is ‘a polite thank you for the opportunity, an introduction to the team members, the agenda for today and a reiteration of the brief (which the prospect already knows having written it).’
Whilst some of these elements may have a role, they are not an overture! Like the great composers, be creative with your opening. Use imagination and wit. Consider a topical observation, a story from personal experience or a relevant piece of theatre. Prepare it and rehearse it several times.
The great overture will achieve two things. It will raise the mood and expectation of your audience. It will raise the confidence and performance level of you and your team.
Incidentally, a further dictionary definition reads: opening moves towards a new relationship.