8 High Impact Ways to Start a Presentation

Grab Attention and Set the Scene

So we have the content of our presentation sorted, we know it is worth listening to, but we need to grab our audience instantly and get them ready for the journey! But far too often, the start is as simple as "Hi my name is Chris Dawes, and my presentation is going to be about...". They already knew that from the invite and the welcoming slide they were greeted with as they entered the room, so to start with that means that we run the risk of losing them before we even truly begin!

8 ways to start a presentation

When we are asked about the most important part(s) of a presentation, we always say the start and the end! But it is all too easy to fall into the trap of putting all of our effort into knowledge dumping in the middle. If we get their focus and interest piqued from the start then we know they are more likely to pay attention, and if we say last what we want remembered most then we are more likely to get an outcome we were after.

8 High Impact Ways to Start a Presentation

  1. A relevant thought provoking question
    • This not only gets people thinking about the subject that you are going to cover, but maybe opens up some kind of irony or misconception for example that is going to be useful to maximise the impact of what you are about to tell them.
    • Remember your audience may not be comfortable enough to participate yet, or may result in losing control of the room, so often either a rhetorical question to make them think, or one that requires something as simple as a show of hands rather than verbal answers
  2. A shocking fact, statistic, or headline
    • This ensures the relevance and magnitude of your points are realised and gains instant focus
  3. A powerful quote
    • Triggers the emotions you are aiming for as well as gaining focus
    • Increases credibility of what you are about to present
  4. Gripping relevant photo(s)
    • "a picture paints a thousand words"
  5. A short video
    • A video is a very creative way of opening up the presentation and setting the scene, and actually relieves some pressure off of you; the presenter. This either be a "here's one I did earlier" yourself, or someone else's relevant video. Just make sure that the audio is clear for everyone in the room
  6. Prop or creative visual aid
    • The potential here is endless in reality! Just keep it relevant. One of the funniest presentation openings I have enjoyed was the presenter running into the room in a Batman suit (over his later revealed shirt and tie), and it was a fantastic way of grabbing our attention, and truly set a poignant seed for the emotional and motivational presentation he then gave.
  7. "Once upon a time"
    • When I say the words "once upon a time" to my Daughter, she is totally focused, looking straight at me, and leaning forward! Because she knows that something interesting is coming next!!!
    • So if you can tell an adult version (if the audience is made up of adults) of a story to set the scene, take them on a journey, and get them on the edge of their seats and desperate to know what is coming next, then you have really nailed a powerful start to your presentation!
  8. "Why?"
    • To open up a presentation by setting the reasons of why the following information is important, relevant, interesting, etc. you have more chance of the audience giving it the attention it deserves
    • You can't always assume that they know or remember why it is important, relevant, or interesting, so it is always worth reminding or informing them. They may actually pay more attention than they intended to...

Some people suggest a joke as a potential way to start, but in all honesty it is more a case of using one of the aforementioned ways to start but with humour in it, rather than just opening with a joke that may not appeal to 1 or more people in your audience. No one likes a tumble weed start if the audience don't react how you were hoping, and unless your presentation is about jokes, it probably isn't relevant... But a humorous powerful quote, short video, photo, story, question etc. could work well. The advice we give though, is to only really do it if you naturally crack jokes with others.

All of these potential high impact ways to start can be played around with, mixed and matched, and alternated. But what doesn't change is that you want them to pay attention, and you want it to enable you to relax into the presentation in those opening couple of minutes when your nerves/adrenaline are at their highest. So it is absolutely vital, once you have written the content of your presentation/speech/meeting, to put just as much thought and effort into how you are going to start and end your presentation.

We will be covering finishing in a future tips article, so make sure you subscribe to receive a tips/advice email once per month to keep you up to date with the useful blog articles on our website. Videos can also be found on our Open Dawes Training YouTube page, so make sure you also click subscribe there to be informed when we upload more tips and advice videos.

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