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10 Opening Tips for
Starting a Presentation

1. Title slide
One of the simplest ways when starting a presentation, particularly if you’re feeling nervous, is to have a slide with the title of the presentation and your name on it. This gives the audience something to look at while you gather your notes and thoughts.

2. State the objectives
Stating the objectives of your talk is better suited to a training or educational presentation. The audience is informed upfront what points will be covered during the presentation and perhaps what is expected from them. Starting a presentation this way is, however, not recommended if you are trying to persuade. For example, if you’re trying to convince senior management to purchase a new computer system for your office, you may not want give the game away too early by stating that this is your objective!

3. Question
Try to think of a good question related to your presentation that your audience will want answered. For example: ‘Do our customers see us as a reliable supplier?’ or ‘Does pre-school help with a child’s development?’ This will immediately get your audience thinking about the subject. Some may even have their own views. You can then go on to give your presentation finishing with your conclusions and answering your initial question.

4. Second guessing
This is similar to asking a question. By anticipating and challenging your audience’s preconceived ideas you can grab their attention from the start. For example, “You may be expecting today to hear just another monthly management talk. But this morning I have something more interesting to say…”

5. Quotation
Starting a presentation with a quote is simple, yet can be very effective. The quotation should of course be relevant to your subject, and preferably from a well-known person familiar to the audience.

6. Facts and figures
Giving some relevant facts or statistics can sometimes be a good way when starting a presentation. But don’t overwhelm your audience. Keep the facts simple, accurate and to the point. Contrasting facts often have the biggest impact. For example, “In the 1970s, the average city dweller was exposed to around 500 ad messages each day. Today it's over 3,000.”

7. Informal
This can be used to involve your audience and lead onto your presentation. For example: “Just the other day, John and I were discussing the problems with our new computer system. I contacted the software developers and this is what they told me…”

8. Anecdote
An amusing and well told anecdote can often be a good way to start a presentation. Again, a few general rules apply: keep it brief and relevant to your presentation. If possible give it a personal twist relating to yourself. A presenter with the willingness to laugh at oneself often warms up the audience and can brake down barriers.

9. Topical story
If you like the idea of starting the presentation with a story, but are uncomfortable with an amusing anecdote, try to find a topical story form the news or from within your organization that is relevant and will lead into your presentation.

10. Be controversial
Try starting a presentation with a controversial statement relating to your subject. Then immediately follow it up with a clarification that you can build your presentation on. For example: “Training our sales staff in the classroom about our products is a waste of time and money…” (Pause for effect, allowing the statement to take effect, then) “Unless we follow that training up with real-life experience in the field.”


Return to Effective Verbal Communication from
 Starting a Presentation


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