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What Are the Most Effective Ways to Open a Presentation?

All eyes in the room are on you.

There are knots in your stomach, your knees are weak, your palms are sweaty and your mind has gone blank as soon as you’re about to speak.

Thinking the worst right away is common but if you have a strong opening, you can gain momentum and leave a huge impact on your audience.

Someone demonstrating the most effective ways to open a presentation

9 Effective Ways to Open a Presentation & Retain Any Audience's Attention

1. Tell a Story

Opening with a short, engaging story will keep your audience hooked right away. Firstly, people perk up and pay attention when they’re told a story and secondly, it creates a sense of mystery. Your audience wants to know why you told that particular story and how it relates to your presentation.

The best stories are those which begin at the start of a presentation and connect to the core purpose as you go along. It’s a great way to set the scene by grabbing their attention or if some people can relate, they’ll put themselves in your shoes. 

Read: How can you use storytelling within business? 

2. Show Vulnerability

A lot of people expect great speakers and presenters to be tough, but you can build a deeper relationship with your audience right away by opening up about your life or story. It’s another way to show you’re human and relatable.

Showcasing this ability gives you more chances to maintain the audience’s attention and interest.

3. Add Some Humour

Whether it’s the first thing you say on stage or a follow-up from your introduction, tell a joke to elicit some laughter from the audience. Not only is this an effective way to lighten the mood in the room, it also helps you better connect with the audience. Keep it light and don’t overdo this as it can steer people away from the main purpose of your presentation.

If you utilise humour properly, it can quickly become your go-to technique in future presentations. Obviously, this depends on the topic and how sensitive it is.

4. Start With Quotes and Facts

This can be quite tricky, especially since you should pick something people haven’t heard before. So, don’t pick a quote that’s obvious and has been used repeatedly in the public sector or other industries. Instead, do a little more research to find a quote that’s also new to you and hasn’t been used a lot.

The same applies to a fact. You don’t want one that the people in attendance already know. Find impressive facts that will genuinely surprise them to create an impact straight away.

Discover how to stay calm during a presentation

5. Don’t Talk About Yourself - Add Value

If you stand up in front of an audience and spend five minutes talking about you and your experience then they’re likely to switch off and won’t re-engage throughout the presentation. They’re not at the presentation to learn about you, they want to learn from you so you need to add value from the moment you’re in front of them.

When you quickly outline the topics you’ll discuss, the audience will already have a good idea of what to expect and the topics they’re most interested in.

6. Show of Hands

Want to create context and commonality as soon as you’re in front of people at your presentation? Poll the room and ask the audience a question with a ‘show of hands’ question to set the scene.

In any techniques you use to open a presentation, make sure you promise the audience answers so they know you’ll add value.

7. Use the Power of What-If

Another great way to capture the audience from the get-go is using the power of ‘what-if’. It gives people a sense of how things can be if they follow your lead. It gets them thinking and by doing this at the start of your presentation, they’ll be engaged throughout the presentation rather than losing interest. Just make sure it always relates back to the main purpose of your talk.

Another good mechanism to use at the start of your presentation is to get the audience to imagine or think of something. This is usually the end goal of your presentation and throughout it, you’ll discuss and overcome pain points to get to that solution.

8. Ask Open-Ended Questions

With this tactic, you can get the audience involved if you don’t want the entire spotlight on you straight away. For it to work, avoid close-ended questions which only result in a yes or no answer. Instead, make it an open-ended one which really gets people thinking.

Audience participation is a great way for them to feel involved as it’s more interactive. Plus, it creates a knowledge gap which you’ll later close in your presentation. When people feel involved and they know the challenges you’ll address without a long-winded introduction, they’ll feel more inclined to listen to hear the outcome.

Read: 7 of the most powerful ways to end your presentation

9. Be Confident

Once you know what to do in terms of showing you’re confident, it’s really easy to adopt in future presentations. Adopt a power stance as soon as you’re in front of people. Fill the space you’re in and speak from the gut rather than talking quietly so nobody can hear you.

Eye contact with audience members is also good if you tend to get nervous in larger audiences. Instead, pick a few different people and look them in the eye to ease those worries. If you look nervous and shy, the audience will pick up on that.

Take deep breaths, have a glass of water before starting and don’t rush. The more you show you’re confident, the more your audience will understand you’re someone worth listening to.

That uneasy feeling you have before a presentation or not knowing how to begin one effectively usually comes down to a lack of confidence. Or even lacking the skills you need to improve public speaking. If that sounds like a familiar situation and something you want to improve on, check out our handbook below. 

Start Presentations More Confidently With Our Handbook

You might want to improve communication with your team or get over the fear of speaking up in meetings. Whatever your situation, our handbook covers what you need to know as well as helpful advice and tips to get started.

To get your copy, click on the link below.

communication handbook for the public sector

Chloe Martin
Content Editor

2+ years in SEO and content marketing. Striving to help public sector professionals develop their skills and learn something new through high-quality content.