As a professional, you’ll likely be called upon to deliver a high-stakes presentation. Depending on your job, the presentation could be in front of a small group, a large crowd, or these days, even be virtual. Regardless of your industry or the size of your audience, how you begin your presentation will influence what the audience thinks of you and what you say.
Powerful Ways to Start Your Presentation
It’s critical that you grab the audience’s attention at the beginning of your presentation. Here are a few ways to start your presentation successfully.
Ask the Audience to Imagine
The “what if” concept has a lot of power; it gives your listeners a sense of what they will experience if they follow your example. That’s why some speakers start their presentation with the word “imagine.” When you ask your listeners to imagine something, you take them to a different place. Phrases like “picture this” or “think of” are useful alternatives as well.
Tell a Story
Consider sharing a short, relevant story at the beginning of your presentation. Your story can be entertaining, ideological, or provocative, but it should be between thirty seconds and one minute long. A personal connection to your story only makes it stronger. For instance, you may have had a recent experience related to your presentation topic. Don’t keep it to yourself; allow your listeners to share in that experience.
Make a Powerful Statement
If you don’t want to tell a story, consider starting with a powerful statement. The purpose of the statement is to get your listeners to look up and pay attention. Ensure the statement is fact-based and easy to understand. You don’t want to scare or provoke the audience; instead, the goal is to give your audience something to think about.
Maintain a Friendly Tone
Many novice presenters try a little too hard to be emotive when they start their presentations. As a consequence, they sometimes come across as inauthentic or “over the top.” To avoid this issue, maintain a friendly tone as you introduce your topic. Greet your audience in an open, sincere way—and show them that you care about them and want to help.
Don’t Depend on Slides
Remember that your audience wants to learn from you, the speaker, rather than your slides. You can use an image or text-based slides to support your presentation, but you should be the main attraction. Think of slides as a visual “add-on” to make your presentation more engaging or convincing.
Use a Shocking Statistic
Statistics and data are great tools to capture the audience’s attention. Rather than sharing several statistics, pick your strongest one. Using a statistic at the beginning of your presentation gives more weight to your argument. Remember to cite your source so that you come across as knowledgeable and credible.
Share a Captivating Image
At the beginning of your presentation, consider showing an image or short video clip. Videos and images can add power to your arguments. Less text, more images—that’s what makes your presentation memorable. Strong visuals will grab listeners’ attention and help them understand what you’re discussing.
Don’t Use Distracting Animations
If you’re using PowerPoint, avoid starting with fancy animations or transition effects. These effects may seem exciting, but they can easily distract the audience. Keep the focus on your message, not the animations. Otherwise, the audience may remember your slides instead of your main ideas.
To be an effective public speaker or presenter, you must know how to begin a presentation. The opening sets the tone for the rest of the presentation—so it’s important that you start strong. If you follow these tips and practice your opening, you will get—and keep—the audience’s attention.