The Best Way to Start a Presentation
We need to make sure we know the best way to start a presentation, as first impressions count and first impressions last. With this in mind I am going to walk you through the process and the things you need to keep in mind when starting your presentation so you can be sure of making a great impression.
When does your presentation start?
This might seem to be a stupid question but the answer is not what most of us think.
The minute any audience sets eyes on you is the answer.
Be prepared. Do not let audience members drift into the room unnoticed and ignored because you are too busy organising yourself. Set up early if you can, but if you can’t at least acknowledge your guests as they enter and follow it up with a big smile even if you are stressed and or nervous.
When you are ready to start with your prepared presentation, announce that you are ready to start, ask if everyone is there or ask if everyone is comfortable. Then welcome and thank them for attending. You must remember that at this point not everyone is listening. If
they have been there a few minutes you can bet that they will be on their phones or engaged in conversation with someone else in the room.
Many presenters start presentations with a funny story or a joke or some profound attention grabbing statement. Do not do this unless you have been announced as a speaker by someone else. It will be wasted as no one will be actually listening. Asking them a question will concentrate them on the fact you are about to speak.
Your next job after welcoming and thanking them for attending is to tell them the just the subject matter and how long the presentation will be. Then tell them when you will be taking questions.
The next job is to ask that they switch off their mobile phones.
All of the above will only impact on the audience in terms of making them feel comfortable and valued and should take no more than a minute or so. This has been a settling process.
You have been letting them know:
That you are ready to speak. Do this with confidence and your audience will feel confident with you. If you mumble and fidget the audience will feel uncomfortable and will be more worried about you, than what you have to say.
That you are glad they are there. The audience needs to feel important.
How long they will be there. An audience who is unsure of how long they are going to be kept will naturally start to fidget after about ten minutes.
The rules. This helps you as you do not want interruptions, whether phones or Questions.
If you want to know more about the psychology of this take a look at my post on influencing in presentations. You may also benefit from taking a look at my post on handling questions.
And so the presentation begins.
Tell them what you are going to tell them.
The start of your content should be a road map of what the subject matter is and the different areas you are going to cover in your presentation. This check list is enough but if you feel so inclined you could use any one of these following techniques to grab your audiences attention:
News: Tell them something they don’t know and will want to. “I heard just before I came here today….”
A Question: Actual or rhetorical. Designed to get them thinking in their minds. ” How would you like to….”
A Quotation: A famous one or something you saw on social media or heard yesterday from the postman. As long as it links to your subject and you can follow it with an appropriate point you want yo make.
A Story or Anecdote: One they all know.” We all remember when…” or one they don’t ” In Hong Kong last week I ..” again it needs to help you with an appropriate point you want to make.
A Fact: A striking, challenging, thought provoking one. “Did you know that…..”
Drama: Say something surprising or shocking. Don’t go too far and make sure you know your audience with this one.
A Gesture: Do something that grabs their attention. Rip up something like the company’s newsletter or money. Make sure this aids what you are saying.
History: Invoke a common memory. ” We all remember when….. “
Curiosity: An oddity that leaves them wondering why you did or said that. Don’t keep them wondering too long though.
Silence: Get your audience to be silent while you count to ten or twenty. Back it up with ” This is how long it takes for…. “