by Adam Noar
Wouldn’t it be great if every single audience member you present to was hooked right from the beginning and unable to pull their eyes away from you and your PowerPoint deck?
I think we both know the answer to that question.
To achieve this goal, you must master the art of starting your presentation like a pro.
Wait a second, you may be thinking. Giving introductions? Isn’t that kind of a small detail when giving presentations?
The answer is no. Your presentation introduction is not a small detail.
The introduction to your PowerPoint presentation is often the difference between engaging your audience and having them quickly excuse themselves to go catch Pokémons on their smartphones.
Think about it. If you don’t grab your audience’s attention right away, you’ll lose them.
You just spent all that time creating an amazing presentation. You did a ton of research and spent countless hours perfecting your slides and making sure there are no errors.
But if your intro SUCKS, your efforts will be all for nothing.
In other words, you lost before you even got started!
If you want to give great presentations and keep your audience hooked, you must master the art of starting your presentation with a bang!
Let me give you some tips and examples on how to do this.
1.) Start Your Presentation With a Stellar Opening Line
To have a strong presentation intro, you need to open with a strong first sentence.
The first sentence that comes out of your mouth has one single purpose: to entice your audience members to want to keep listening. In doing so, it sets the tone for the rest of the presentation.
If you don’t get this right, you audience’s minds will start to wander (e.g., what they’re having for lunch, what’s on HBO tonight, etc.)
So what does a great opening line look like?
Here’s an example from Gary Vaynerchuk’s TED talk “Do What You Love. No Excuses”:
“Let’s start with PASSION. There are way too many people in this room right now who are doing stuff they hate.”
Why is the above such a great opening line? Because it makes people want to know more:
Am I one of those people?
How can I get started doing something that I love?
What did Gary learn about how to live with passion?
Vaynerchuk nailed it with his opening line. He drew us in by making us ask questions.
If you don’t know how to craft an intriguing first sentence, the remaining 20 minutes (or however long your talk is) of your presentation could be a complete waste.
Luckily for you, with a few simple methods, writing a phenomenal first sentence can be quite easy:
The first thing to keep in mind is that you want to keep the first sentence short. This makes it easy for your audience to digest the first bits of information and prevents them from losing interest quickly.
But there is more to it than that.
You have to make sure that the first sentence grabs your audience’s attention and holds it for the rest of the presentation.
Ask Your Audience a Question
An easy way to get your audience’s attention and get them engaged is to ask them a simple question.
For example, if I were giving a talk on “How to Design Amazing Presentations,” I might consider opening with the following question:
“Did you know that people are incredible at remembering pictures?”
Now, why does the above question work?
It has to do with the brain’s “reward system.”
The brain’s reward system lights up when curiosity is piqued.
When this system is activated, dopamine (the stuff that gives us reward and pleasure) is released.
When we are intrigued by a question (i.e., experience a sense of curiosity) the limbic reward system lights up. And that’s why we want to keep listening and paying attention … it’s rewarding to satisfy curiosity.
That’s why a question is a great opening line. You can even use the question as the title of your presentation.
Tell a Short Story
The brain also gets energized when it encounters a story.
According to the theory of neural coupling, certain portions of the brain are activated when a reader thinks about the same mental and physical activity that a character in a story is doing.
Influential speaker Tony Robbins often starts his presentations with a story, often a true story:
“When I was 17, I went out on Thanksgiving, it was my target for years to have enough money to feed two families. The most fun and moving thing I ever did in my life. Next year, I did four, then eight. I didn’t tell anybody what I was doing, I wasn’t doing it for brownie points. But after eight, I thought I could use some help. So I went out, got my friends involved, then I grew companies, got 11, and I built the foundation. 18 years later, I’m proud to tell you last year we fed 2 million people in 35 countries through our foundation. All during the holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, in different countries around the world.”
The story makes his audience members interested and keeps them hooked to the very end.
Provide An Attention Grabbing Quote
Another great way to start your presentation introduction is to use an attention-grabbing quote.
Let’s say you are giving a presentation on “innovation.” A great way to introduce the presentation would be to use a quote from Albert Einstein:
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
When giving your quote you may want to consider the following two methods:
1) Include the quote in your PowerPoint deck. When doing this you may also want to consider including an image of the person who said the quote or some other relevant image that illustrates what the quote is about.
2) Going to a blank screen (Control +B or Control +W). This bring all the attention to you and prevent any distractions.
Either of these options work great when providing your quote.
Share An Interesting Fact About Your Topic
In an age when the Internet is abundant with crappy information and fraudulent “gurus,” people are skeptical. They have every reason to be.
It’s often a great idea to start your presentation with some cold hard facts or stats.
Here’s another example of some stats I might use if I was giving a talk about presentation design:
“According to Dr. John Medina, if people hear a piece of information three days later they will remember only 10% of it. However, if you a picture and people will remember 65%.”
Opening your presentation with a relevant fact or statistic is a great way to establish trust and authority from the first sentence and let readers know you’ve done your research.
2.) Hold Your Audience’s Attention by Having Something Unique to Say After Your Opening Line
Alright, so you’ve come up with an awesome opening line, and you have your audience’s attention. Good job! Give yourself a pat on the back!
Now, you have to hold that interest by having something unique to say.
If you want to have the audience’s respect and attention, you have to say something they’ve never heard before.
Going back to my example of giving a presentation on how to create amazing presentations.
Here’s an example:
“How would you like to learn how to design presentations so exciting that your audience will be sitting on the edge of their seats with excitement?
That would be pretty epic, right?
Well, this is entirely possible, and in today’s presentation, I am going to share with you the tips and tricks of how to do exactly that.
It’s not by staying up late every night or spending thousands of dollars on professional presentation designers either.
I am going to show you how you can create presentations that rock by giving you tons of smart resources, and using little known design secrets that most presentation designers don’t want you to know about!
Sound’s awesome? Let’s get to it.”
It’s hard to be different. I realize that.
Sometimes, in order to create unique stuff, we simply have to work harder, think longer, and do more research than our competitors.
Here are some ways you can develop that unique voice in your presentation intro:
Share a personal story or fact
You’re the only you there is. You can share a story or experience no one else can. One way to tell such a story is to write, “If you know me…”
Here’s a great example from influential speaker Scott Harrison:
“In 2004, I left the streets of New York City for the shores of West Africa. I’d made my living for years in the big Apple promoting top nightclubs and fashion events, for the most part living selfishly and arrogantly. Desperately unhappy, I needed to change. Faced with spiritual bankruptcy, I wanted desperately to revive a lost Christian faith with action and asked the question: What would the opposite of my life look like?”
Notice how you become instantly hooked after reading the above.
Get your emotions in it
People have an emotional reaction to emotions. When we convey our emotions in our writing, people tend to respond. Tony Robbins is a master of getting emotional during presentations. He even talks about it in one of his speaking engagements:
“Information without emotion is not retained. You need to be in the moment and flexible to make it real and raw.”
A good way to insert emotion into your talk is to practice in front of a mirror. Don’t memorize entire sentences verbatim, so that way when you give the talk it sounds a bit more natural – not to mention, the more salient points of the talk will really jump out at you as you go through your paces during your presentation
Share your goals or vision
If you have a guiding goal or vision for life, you can communicate this in your introduction. “That’s one of the reasons I wrote this post. My goal in life is to…”
Make a promise
A promise is a personal and attention-grabbing thing. Give your readers a promise, and it will secure their loyalty and their interest. “I promise that I’ll do my dead-level best to….”
Unique isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.
2.) Make Sure Your Presentation Introduction is Extra Simple
The world is moving so fast these days that most people have an attention span of only a few seconds.
Apparently, our attention span is getting shorter!
After a few seconds, we get bored and move on to the next shiny object.
If you want your audience members to make time in their days to listen to what you have to say, make sure you present things as simply as possible.
Longer presentations, of course, deserve slightly longer introductions. But it’s important to respect people’s time and attention.
This means you need to avoid rambling and dive straight into your amazing slides.
3.) Use the Word “You” and Speak Directly to Your Audience
Whenever you are giving a presentation, you want to use the word “you” as much (and as naturally) as possible.
In this article, I’ve used some variation of the word you more than 100 times. Why? Because I’m talking to you! I want you to know this information. I want you to benefit from it.
By emphasizing the word “you” in your presentation, you let your audience know that you are directly addressing them and their situation and not just giving a generic talk to the general populace.
But there’s another side to this. I should refer to myself as well. My goal is to convey a personal feel to this article. After all, it’s me talking to you, right? So it’s only natural that I would refer to myself too.
4.) Tell Your Audience What Your Presentation is About
The point of an introduction is exactly that: to introduce the content that will be presented in an article.
I cannot tell you the number of times PowerPoint presentations have left me confused even after the presenter has gone through 5 or more slides.
Take a moment to explain what your presentation is going to cover without giving away too many details.
Here is a great example from a Ted Talk from Seth Godin
“Today, I’m going to give you four specific examples, I’m going to cover at the end about how a company called Silk tripled their sales; how an artist named Jeff Koons went from being a nobody to making a whole bunch of money and having a lot of impact; to how Frank Gehry redefined what it meant to be an architect. And one of my biggest failures as a marketer in the last few years — a record label I started that had a CD called “Sauce.”
This will build suspense around the subject matter while still letting your audience know what they may be in for.
5.) Explain the Importance of Your Presentation
Once you’ve explained what the article is, now it’s time to explain why people should care.
Everyone on the Internet approaches every new piece of information with a simple question: “What’s in it for me?”
If you want to write introductions that hook the reader and help your content go viral, you have to master the art of explaining what the reader stands to gain from the information you are sharing—the benefits.
How will it benefit your readers’ lives? How will it solve a problem they are facing? How will it cure a pain they are feeling?
Here’s a great example from influential speaker Tim Ferriss where he tells people what he wants them to take away from the presentation:
“And that’s what I want everyone in here to feel like, the Incredible Hulk, at the end of this presentation. More specifically, I want you to feel like you’re capable of becoming an excellent long-distance swimmer, a world-class language learner, and a tango champion.”
If you understand how to quickly and efficiently answer these questions, you’ll keep your readers glued to your article till the last word.
Few things can make or break your presentation as easily as an introduction.
If you can master the art of kicking off your presentation like a pro, you’ll be able to increase audience engagement, improve sales, and earn a reputation as an incredible speaker.
It’s not an easy skill to master, but like many things in the world of giving presentations, it’s fairly straightforward.
If you put in the work, you’ll get results.
Here’s my question for you …
What tactics do you use to start a presentation introduction?
Lastly, do you have a friend that could benefit from learning about how to start a presentation? If so, email them the link to this post.
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