How To Start A Presentation: Why Making The Right Start Is Critical
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We’ve all experienced a bad presentation. We’ve listened to bad speakers, heard boring information, and read slides that don’t keep us engaged.
A bad presentation is often bad for both the speaker and the audience members.
Grabbing the audience’s attention for the very beginning is key to keeping your audience engaged and running an effective presentation speech.
In this article we will look at what a presentation introduction is and how to start a presentation effectively.
What Is A Presentation Introduction?
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” That is the opening line of the book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and it is known as one of the most famous opening lines in a book ever written.
A good opening line can do a lot for books and the same goes for presentation introductions.
Loyola University Chicago breaks down a presentation introduction into 4 key elements: “1) capture your audience’s interest, 2) give them a context for your work, 3) pose your central question, problem, or issue, and 4) offer the most concise answer or argument you can give.”
When it comes to any public speaking engagement, grabbing your audience’s attention is the most important thing.
For a presentation, this could make or break your presentation.
Let's Explore How You Should Start A Presentation, The Right Way...
Before you begin presenting, you should have a strong idea for how you will start your presentation. Here are a few strong ways you can begin your presentation and create interest within your audience.
Start With Introducing Yourself
One of the most basic, yet effective ways you can draw attention is through introducing yourself to your audience. This is effective for both smaller and larger audiences and can be a way to create a connection between you and your audience.
Some of the best presenters introduce themselves through a personal story, a relevant quote, a job title, or a relevant yet funny video.
Ideally, your introduction should motivate your audience to listen and buy into what you are saying.
Your introduction should use effective body language and eye contact, and should relate to the general messaging of the presentation.
State The Purpose Of Your Presentation
Sometimes you can sit through an entire deck of presentation slides and leave without really understanding the purpose of the presentation.
A great intro will pre-emptively answer audience questions about the purpose of your presentation. Doing so creates interest in the information you will be sharing and engages your audience right from the start.
The purpose can be introduced through rhetorical questions, a thought provoking question, a bold and provocative statement, or through more personal stories.
You might even consider opening with an “imagine” statement (Example: “Imagine you’re lying on a beach sipping a drink…”).
Hit Your Audience With Captivating Visuals
Another thing that many speaker use to engage their audience is with a captivating visual representation of the purpose of the presentation. This is often done through an attention-grabbing video or image and well-designed presentation slide decks.
Not only can visuals get your audience paying attention, it can also present key information or ideas that you will call back to throughout your presentation.
Encourage Audience Participation Early On
Audience participation is also vital to the effectiveness and overall performance of your presentation.
While audience engagement can be strengthened through professional practice or learning how to be a better presenter, there are a few things you can do to inspire participation right from the get-go.
One of the best ways to encourage participation is through direct questions that need responses from the audience.
When you begin with a direct question to introduce your presentation, message, or speech, you force the people in the room to pay attention and provide answers.
Some examples of relevant direct questions you can ask might start with:
Who has ever experienced….
How many of you agree with…
When was the first time you...
These opening questions don’t have to necessarily be deep or require a lot of thinking. Instead, think about questions that can be answered through the raising of hands, yes or no, or a by audience members yelling out an answer.
Don't Just Read Your Slides, Tell A Story
Finally, a good rule of thumb when doing any kind of presentation is to tell a story.
A good story that relates to the everyday lives or problems of your audience can have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of your presentation and the overall audience participation and impression.
For example, if you are going to be talking about a business strategy you are proposing to a client, you might start with a compelling story of this strategy in action.
Think of how many TedTalks start. In many of these presentations, many speakers will introduce their key idea or speech through a story that directly relates to its message and purpose.
Stories can evoke certain emotions in your audience that will motivate them to engage and participate throughout the presentation.
Why Is Starting Off On Right Foot So Important?
Some of the best opening lines in presentations enable the audience to fully participate and engage with your material.
Here are a few reasons why starting strong is so important to your speech, message, or presentation.
It Sets The Tone For The Entire Presentation
For one, a strong introduction can create and set the tone for the rest of your speech or presentation. Setting a tone is important for audiences to follow the message and relevant points outlined in your presentation slide.
For example, if you are presenting a sales pitch, you want to start with something that can motivate your audience to understand the appeal of what you are selling.
It Prevents You From Losing Your Audience's Attention
Additionally, a strong opener can help you avoid losing the audience’s attention. As a rule of thumb, you should periodically use some of your opening strategies to engage your audience throughout the entirety of the presentation.
If you just keep talking and talking for too long, it’s very easy for your audience to lose interest. Instead, grab them from the start and continue to grab them from beginning to the end.
Your Presentation Will Leave A Lasting Impression
A strong opening can leave a lasting impression even hours and days after you finish.
However you begin your presentation, consider how you might stick in your audience’s mind after you wrap up. This could be through a funny and memorable story, a shocking fact, or a generally appealing tone throughout your presentation.
Here Are A Few Common Mistakes You Should Avoid At The Beginning Of Your Presentation
Starting With An Apology
Confidence is key when you are presenting a speech or talk. Starting with an apology of any kind can create an untrustworthy vibe that is hard to shake.
In general, you should inspire trust and excitement in your audience, not distrust through an apologetic statement.
Simply Reading From Your Slides
One of the most common mistakes people make when presenting is reading off their slides. Not only is this incredibly boring for your audience, it also shows your audience you aren’t well-prepared or particularly excited about what you are saying.
Not Engaging Your Audience
Reading off your slides is so important to avoid because it does nothing to engage your audience. You want to have your audience view you as an engaging person to listen to, not a boring voice reading words that aren’t inspiring.
You can utilize the opener strategies listed above throughout your whole presentation to motivate and engage everyone in the room.
Not Providing Clarity On The Purpose Of The Presentation
Imagine spending an hour in a meeting and leaving without a clear understanding of the purpose. That would be extremely frustrating and would feel like a waste of your precious time.
This is why it’s so important for every person in the room to have clarity on the purpose of your talk from the start. You want them to leave with a full understanding of what they learned and heard. Not doing so will result in confusion, disengaged audience members, and a lack of excitement overall.
What Are Our Final Thoughts On How To Start A Presentation?
To get to the point, starting strong is extremely important for every presentation. Grabbing your audience from the very start can lead to more sales, more interest, and better public speaking skills overall.
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