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Begin With a Bang


By Bob Goodyear

Coming up with a good presentation opening is difficult. Because of that, many times the presenter will just default to an opening that sounds something like this.

“Hello. My name is Joe Presenter. Thank you for inviting me here. I appreciate the time you are giving to me to speak. I hope what I have to say will be interesting to you. Today I’m going to tell you about the 93 great features of my product.”

How many times have you heard an introduction like that? How many times have you opened your presentation like that? I certainly have been guilty of opening this way, I’m ashamed to say.

You have less than 30 seconds to get the attention of the audience. Don’t spend your time with the “unpleasant pleasantries” in your opening statement. Do something that will grab the attention of your audience. Here’s three techniques to make your presentation opening engaging.

Begin with a story

I like to start a presentation by immediately telling a story. Since I spend much of my time speaking to technical audiences, I have found that this generally surprises them. The story I tell as a presentation opening is usually a personal story. Almost always I tell a story where I did something wrong from which I learned some kind of valuable lesson.

The story always relates to my topic. This is very important. Just telling a cool story that doesn’t relate to the subject of the presentation makes no sense. It will just confuse the audience. For ideas about how to construct a great story, check out my previous blog post titled “The 5 C’s of a Great Story..

State an interesting statistic

A second way to open a presentation is by stating an interesting statistic that relates to the topic. For example, if your talk is related to mobile devices you might start out with something like this.

“According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2016 77% of Americans own a smartphone. In total, the research center reports that 95% of Americans own some kind of cellphone.”

At this point, you want to relate the statistic to your topic. Make sure you use an accurate statistic though. Don’t make one up! Today’s audiences will check up on you during your presentation.

Ask a you-focused question

A third technique for opening a presentation is to ask the audience a you-focused question. This engages them directly by having them think about something that directly applies to your subject. For example, if you are going to be talking about the dangers of heartburn, you might start out with a couple of questions like this.

“Have you ever had that burning feeling in your chest that made you reach for an antacid? Have you had this feeling more than once a week? Have you thought about what this might be doing to your health?”

These are some questions you can start with to introduce the topic. You can do something like this with any topic to get your audience immediately thinking about your subject within the first 30 seconds of speaking.

Be different

To summarize, open your presentation with a bang. Don’t use the “unpleasant pleasantries.” Start your presentation with something that will immediately grab the attention of your audience.

Try using one of these techniques — use a story, state an interesting statistic, or ask a you-focused question. Doing any of these, or using another interesting technique, will make you stand out right from the beginning.

Bob Goodyear is a veteran speaker on technology who understands the communications challenges that technical professionals face. Find out how Bob can help your organization with its presentation. Reach Bob by email or by phone at 404.790.5855.