Get Their Attention! —7 Great Ways to Open Any Presentation

May 12, 2013 · Posted by Michael Fleischner in Featured,Must Read Content
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One of the best ways to ensure a successful presentation is to start strong.  Unless you garner someone’s attention from the start, keeping them engage will be a challenge.  In this blog post we talk about seven great ways to open any presentation.  The key is to find the type of opening you prefer and rehearse them until they come naturally.  Once you’ve gotten the attention of your audience, sharing information and persuading them on your topic becomes much easier.

When giving a presentation, people are usually focused on providing quality information.  This can be done through a variety of methods or means but varies from what is required during an opening.  Your primary goals should be to grab the audience’s attention, even if just for a brief moment.  I like to call this the ‘hook’.  Get them hooked and you can spend the rest of your presentation reeling them in.  If audience members aren’t hooked from the start, catching them at any point becomes a significant challenge.

Casting you line

When thinking about any opening for a presentation, it’s important to go where the fish are.  This means not only showing up, but more importantly, knowing your audience.  I’ve seen a number of presentation introductions and openings that were nothing short of inappropriate and it ruined the next hour that a presenter was in front of the room.

If you understand your audience, have some background on their preference or needs, you’re in a much better position to fashion an opening the can resonate with them. Knowing your audience isn’t trite, it’s an essential part of an effective presentation.

Casting your fishing line during the introduction is important because your audience makes judgments about you in less than sixty seconds. Additionally, you need to set the tone early on and introduce your message to fully engage the audience.

7 ways to open your presentation

There are literally countless ways to open a presentation.  It’s essential that you find the ones that work best for you.  Some people will naturally gravitate towards one type of opening as opposed to another.  And I’m often asked what type of opening is the best.  My answer is always the same, “it depends”.  You need to find the opening that works best for you.

  1. Start by asking a question.  Asking open ended questions get people thinking.  Asking a provocative question like, “If someone was to give you twenty million dollars and you had to spend it in only 24 hours, what would you do?”  Questions can be both powerful and provocative.  This works really well when thinking about your audience and what keeps them up at night.
  2. Begin with a story.  Stories are a great way to get people engaged and generate interest.  If you are good at storytelling, consider this to be a powerful opener.  I’ve even seen some speakers literally begin with a story before any introduction.  Stories can captivate and help you position yourself as someone who others should listen to.
  3. Show an interesting image.  You’ve heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, it’s true.  If you want to touch people, doing something from a visual perspective is always a good idea. That is, as long as it has meaning, is thought provoking and on topic.
  4. Show a statistic.  Numbers are great, especially when people don’t know what they mean.  Starting a presentation with a number and then following with a thorough explanation or meaningful point can engage your audience and help start off on the right foot.
  5. Cite a recent survey or study.  Every day, new studies come out to either prove or disprove a point.  Do you have valuable data to share?  Even a case study or findings that can set your presentation up for success?  Consider what you might be able to use that would be seen as valid and meaningful among your target audience.  The more proof points you can share, the more your audience tends to believe you.
  6. Use multimedia (music, video, etc.).   Another great way to introduce yourself and start any presentation is with a video, music, or some other form of multimedia.  Videos can be very powerful but you must be sure that your equipment can play the video clearly and it can be easily heard.  I’ve seen video intros go horribly wrong but at the same time, they’ve worked very well for an introduction.
  7. Have someone introduce you.  Nothing builds credibility like a strong endorsement from a member of the community you are speaking to.  When being introduced, I always like to write the introduction on the behalf of the person doing the introduction.  This takes the pressure off them and ensures an accurate introduction.

We’ve just covered 7 very basic but powerful introductions you can use for your presentations.  Although I’ve used all of them, you only need one per presentation.  Give each of them a try.  Think about those situations where you’re most comfortable and lean on that introduction method until it no longer works for you.

The key is to not overthink the introduction.  Simply find and intro that you enjoy, that works for you, and the rest will take care of itself with adequate preparation and practice.

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