Presenter: “Hello, my name is John Smith and I’m going to talk to you about 10 great ways to start your presentation.” Attendee (thinking): “Tell me something I don’t know. God, this is going to be long, I’d better take my phone out and start making my shopping list.” Do you know how fast you can lose your audience? Literally seconds! That is why you always need to start off your presentation on the right foot. Let’s have a look at 10 infallible ways to capture everyone’s attention from the very beginning.
To provoke is often seen as a negative word, as one of its definitions is “to cause anger deliberately”. However, this verb also means “to provide the needed stimulus for” (Merriam-Webster). When you start your presentation, you need to stimulate your audience to pay attention, understand, process and memorize the important ideas of your speech. Making a provocative statement will arouse not only interest but also emotions that will help you hook your public. Indeed, you can make them feel amused, amazed, confused, and even frightened with a single sentence. Of course, you should never be distasteful or rude: the aim of provocation is to arouse curiosity.
“It can take as little as 5 seconds for the audience to determine whether a presenter is charismatic or not.”Source: Presentation Panda
Not all of us are natural-born standup comedians. However, we all have a sense of humor that we can share with our audience. A joke is not only an occasion for laughter and the release of endorphins but also a great way to connect to your audience. You need to pay close attention to your tone of voice, your pauses, and the content of your funny story. Another benefit of making people laugh is this one: “If it’s funny, they’ll remember it.”
“– Why did the PowerPoint cross the road?
– To get to the other slide.“
Using a quote is a double-edged sword. If your quote is hackneyed, banal, or irrelevant, people will forget it right away and start wondering what they are doing here. On the contrary, a quote that is original, mind-blowing, and illustrative of the main point of your speech will capture your audience’s attention in the blink of a slide. When you quote somebody, not only do you get inspiration from somebody else, but you also enjoy the aura or expertise of the person you quote.
“People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”Steve Jobs
Beyond provocation is shock. Just like provocation, shock is a word that is usually associated with negative feelings. Nevertheless, shock is a synonym of great surprise. If you begin your presentation with a paradox, an idea that goes against logic, or an apparently unbelievable statement, you will blow people’s minds! Their curiosity will be piqued and they will be attentive throughout your talk, trying to understand the inconceivable. After their first reaction (Whaaaaat? Are you kidding me?), their attention lapse will definitely be longer than usual.
“You should not be here in this room, you are going to waste your time and if you are stubborn enough to stay, I’m going to prove it to you!.”
What type of question should you start your presentation with? Whatever kind of interrogation you may start with, you are automatically going to connect with your audience and involve them in your speech. You may start with a rhetorical question, a simple but controversial yes/no question, a trivia question that you will answer towards the end of your talk, or a multiple-choice question in which none of the answers is correct. Another possibility is to directly ask your audience if they have been affected by the specific issue you want to address.
“How many of you have literally fallen asleep during a PowerPoint presentation?”
Storytelling is probably the most powerful tool to catch the attention of our fellow humans since stories have been the basis of our civilization since the dawn of mankind. It is even better if your story is personal since you will trigger closeness and empathy among your public. If you don’t have a great story to tell, why don’t you invent one? If your narration is real or not doesn’t matter as long as you can get your message across efficiently. However, you need to choose and edit your story to make it compelling and memorable: storytelling is an art that requires technique.
“10 years ago, I gave my first important corporate presentation. After 10 minutes, I was less nervous than at the beginning and I thought everything was going pretty well until… one of the attendees fell asleep, hit his head against the wall with a loud bang and started bleeding. Can you imagine my shock? Can you imagine my guilt? I had literally, physically harmed someone with my presentation.”
Show, don’t tell! The golden rule of narrative technique can also be applied to your presentations. You can actually begin your presentation by not talking and just showing a fantastic short video or a mesmerizing picture. Any visual content that will help you support your ideas and captivate your audience is worth sharing.
Silence is golden is a saying that may not always be true. However, it can really help us during our presentations and this is the reason why: stress tends to accelerate our usual speech flow. Therefore, we tend to overwhelm our audience with information without giving them time to digest it. Pauses are essential: give silence a chance! Don’t make it awkward though: timely silences create expectation but too long pauses can generate uneasiness. If you start with a visual, you must remain silent while your audience processes the image or video.
You show the picture above while remaining silent for 5 seconds, then you say “Have you ever seen slides like these?” 2 seconds of silence. “You have, haven’t you? It is a sad reality.”
You must dream to make your audience dream. Inviting your audience to imagine a perfect world will make them feel safe, soothed, optimistic, and also focused. This exercise can be a great hook since you will tell them how to reach the perfect vision you had together. Starting your sentence with “what if…?” will create a world of possibilities.
“What if you could live in a world in which all PowerPoint presentations are fascinating?”
You can also start your speech with a clear statement that can be enlightening, provocative, or even shocking. You can indeed use interesting statistics, fun facts, or flabbergasting figures to dazzle your audience from the very start. The numbers and stats need to be new, surprising, or even counterintuitive to arouse people’s interest.
79 percent of people agree that most presentations are boring.Source: Presentation Panda
That’s it! We hope you will find these 10 Great Ways To Start Your Presentation helpful. If you apply these tips, you will be off to a good start. We wish you the best of luck on your next presentation.