Learning how to start a presentation is just as important as knowing how to finish it. It is the beginning of the conversation that can make or break it in capturing your audience’s attention. We forget that there are many ways to start a presentation that will engage the hearts and minds of the people you want to convey your message to. At CustomShow, we value the importance of design and slide management, and we also understand that the delivery can be just as important as the slides you may use. We wanted to list 22 power tips and tricks that anyone from marketers and sales people to the common man can use to nail the beginning of their next presentation.
Start Your Presentation By Getting People’s Attention
Getting your audience’s attention from the beginning is the most important thing one can do in starting a presentation. Yes, you want to introduce yourself and complete the formalities as quickly as possible, but without grabbing their attention, you’ve already lost them. Remembering the importance of capturing the attention of who you’re speaking to will set you up for the many other strategies we convey.
Welcome Them With A Thank You
Another important formality is welcoming your audience with a thank you. It shows both sincerity and appreciation and additionally establishes the sense of community with your audience. A great example of this is welcoming them coupled with a thank you for the opportunity to speak, pitch or share.
Memorize Your First Opening Line
In general it is not a good idea to memorize your entire speech. It is however a good idea to memorize the beginning 4 – 10 sentences. This is critical because it allows you to feel confident and ride the wave of confidence as you continue your presentation. Even marketers and sales people can benefit from this approach with slides they use to further buttress their messaging. Most people think the best presenters wing it. While this is true, they typically practice and memorize the beginning and ending of their talks. This is a professional practice you should always leverage to your advantage.
State The Purpose Of Your Presentation
Generally your audience will know your purpose or why you’re there but you want to be sure make it clear to them. For example, as a sales person you may be pitching to win a marketing and leasing assignment of a building in New York. As you begin to pitch the owner’s management team, they’ll know you’re there to talk about how you can help market and lease their building. But another approach can be changing the purpose to “I’m here discuss our team’s capabilities but more importantly discuss strategies you can implement and why they would be effective.” Thinking about the purpose gives you that northern star to point throughout your presentation and they’ll constantly revert back to it.
State how you want to deal with questions
Always remember to let the audience know how you will handle questions. If you are in a marketing or sales presentation, I would not bring this up. Simply give them the free will to ask questions when they best see fit.
We are all uncomfortable when there is silence. Yet incorporating silence into your presentation can be a valuable tool causing the audience to be attentive to what you are going to say next. We got this one from Scott who wrote a great post on 5 ways to open a presentation.
Tell A Joke
As a followup to silence or as a standalone, tell a joke to elicit laughter form the audience. Even for marketing and sales representatives, this can be a way to lighten the room and become more connected with the audience. Don’t overdo this as it can steer people away from your purpose, but proper usage of this technique can be effective in starting any presentation.
Start Your Presentation In Future Or Past
Many directors use this approach in their storytelling. They will start a scene in the far past or in the future and then always connect it back to the main story. This is a power tool to arouse the attention of the viewer, or in the presentation’s case, your audience. There are many great examples of this. One approach that marketers can use is displaying market activity from the past yet showing how your strategies can impact that performance.
Quoting someone is a great way to start any presentation. Just be sure to make it relevant to the purpose of your speech and presentation. If you are using slides, adding a picture of the person you are quoting to add more texture and breadth to your presentation.
Open Up With Being Vulnerable
We know that great speakers can be tough as nails, but those who open up about their lives or their story builds a deeper relationship with their audience. When you start your presentation showcasing your ability to be vulnerable,you are giving yourself more chances to maintain the attention and interest of your audience.
Tell Your Audience A Story
This is as basic is it gets, but story telling is the best way to connect with an audience. You can start a start at the beginning of your presentation and then connect it to the purpose of why you’re there. Many great presenters use this technique and it remains one of the most critical pieces to becoming an effective presenter. Nick Morgan wrote an interesting post on this in Forbes.
Point To Their Problem
If you are pitching for business, this is a great strategy. You don’t want to come across as negative but thinking about problems that the company may not have thought of can be even more effective than simply stating what they already know. Some of the best marketers and salespeople (including Steve Jobs) employs this philosophy regularly.
Point To Their Opportunity
The flipside is showcasing what opportunities they face. Show them the many benefit they could achieve by following your lead or the action you want them to take. This sense of optimism can perk up the audience and get them engaged pretty quickly.
Ask Questions (Direct or Rhetorical)
To start a presentation you can begin with direct questions to the audience. It’s a great way to wake up their senses, get them engaged and get you more connected with them. Jon Marshal did a good job with this point in this post.
Start With Video
Video remains a powerful mechanism to begin a presentation. In an industry roundup we did at CustomShow, we asked presentation experts for their thoughts on video. They all agreed that it is an important prop but should be used sparingly. Keep in mind you want to use video to further your message, not overtake your message.
Shock The Audience
There can be a plethora of ways to shock the audience. You can show a funny video that showcases or furthers your purpose, state something that is contradictory to most people, make fun of something….the sky is the limit. Remember to be smart about how you choose to shock your audience as it could backfire if what you do is offensive to the majority.
Statistics & Data
Showcasing data and statistics to prove a point remains a a critical strategy not just at the beginning but also throughout. Use research and data only to further your points. Statistics can be boring but if there is some compelling information that can help further the conversation, statistics and data can be a powerful tool, whether used at the very beginning or end of any presentation.
Use These Words: “Imagine, Think of, Close Your Eyes”
Another powerful mechanism used by many speakers is getting the audience to imagine or think of something. This technique can be useful in starting off a presentation.
Use The Power Of “What If”
What if you knew how start any presentation and capture your audience? What if your audience could really be connected to your message and the words you say? The power of “what if” gives people the sense of how things can be if they follow your lead or your message. Again, that is why understanding your purpose and stating it gives people something to point to.
Show of Hands – Poll The Room
Just as if we’re asking the audience a question, we also want to get them engaged with a “show of hands” question. This is another technique many presenters use to create context and commonality.
Project And Speak From The Gut
Now we’re back to formalities that can help maintain and capture the audience. If the audience cannot hear you, you will lost them. Speaking from the gut (not in a low pitched voice/from your throat) will add more volume and breadth to your speaking from the very beginning. While this is oftentimes overlooked, it’s one of the most important techniques speakers can use.
Eye To Eye Contact With Audience Members
For those who tend to get nervous in larger audiences, picking different people in the audience to speak to can ease those nerves. Start this at the beginning of your presentation speaking to them directly. Pick different people to speak to in the room and everyone will think you are talking directly to them.
We would love to hear from you – what other techniques have you employed over the years? There are many tips and tricks presenters can use, but these some of the most powerful ones that the very best presenters have used over the years.
If you’re looking for more design tips and tricks check out our partner SalesGraphics.