Fantastic, you’re giving a presentation! Let me be the first one to say, congratulations! You know what the topic is, and you have a rough idea of how it’ll go, but you don’t know how to start a presentation.
You’re going to get a lot of advice on how to deliver a speech, what to wear, which software to use, and honestly, a lot of that is going to be great advice! An introduction is crucial to engaging your audience and there are so many directions you can go. You can be funny, sincere, shocking, relatable, anything you want to be. However, the following advice in taken from bits and pieces from other presenters I admire and from my experience as an audience member. Here are six ways to start a presentation.
1. How to Introduce yourself in a presentation
My favorite advice on how to introduce yourself in a presentation is from Conor Neill. He describes that the best way to introduce yourself is to pretend like you’re meeting people for the first time at a bar. It sounds weird but stay with me here.
You wouldn’t go up to a group of people and say a monotonous, “Hi, I’m Stacy, I’ve been an economic biologist for 40 years, and I’m presenting on the microeconomics of ants.” People would walk away and think you’re weird. Be personable and relatable. Engage with your audience like you’re trying to make a friendship.
Neill suggests a few options including, “I think we know someone in common.” That’s an attention grabber and a great way to start engaging someone because suddenly they’re interested. How can this be applied in a presentation?
Here’s a presentation introduction example:
“I think we know someone in common (pause to gather attention) – Bill Gates. I don’t know him personally, I admire his work ethic and here’s why …”
You don’t have to do it this way, but treating the presentation like you’re trying to make new friends at a bar is the right mentality to have. Be engaging and make people want to listen.
*A note on Conor Neill* If you have the time, definitely check out the following video. Yes, it’s from 2012 and he mentions blackberries (~yikes~) but his advice is timeless and incredibly helpful. It’s a fun watch, he’s entertaining, and he knows what he’s talking about.
2. How to start a presentation: Quotes
Alongside this introduction, you can include a quote that helps guide the rest of your speech. Quotes are great because you come off as well-read, informed, and sharp. If you’re still lost on how to start a presentation – this is one of the easiest ways. However, be careful because if you miss-quote something recognizable, people will think you’re dull. In addition, give credit! Remember who said it! It’s embarrassing if you don’t!
Here’s another presentation introduction example:
“I think we know someone in common (pause to gather attention) – Bill Gates. I don’t know him personally, but his famous quote “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning,” rings true because x, y, z
You can go in a million directions from here and talk about the importance of customer service, how feedback is the best asset, etc.
Hopefully the question of, “how to start a presentation” is getting easier to answer. But if not, a very common and effective way to introduce a presentation is to drop a shocking factoid. Make sure you can transition easily into your subject and it’s not completely random. It doesn’t have to be obviously related to your topic but if you can find a way to connect it, then it works.
Presentation introduction example:
“By 2050, virtually every seabird species on the planet will be eating plastic (pause for dramatic affect). That is why we’ve decided to change the material of our products …”
4. Humility and Humor
Humility and slight self-deprecation is also a great way to win over the audience’s trust and interest. The stereotype formula is also a good one:
My name is _______, I am _______(Job title): Stereotype_______________
This formula is by Magnetic Speaking
“My name is Stacy, I am an economist. And yes, I am the typical economist. I see apply a value to everything – but that doesn’t mean I have no emotions …”
Make sure no to go overboard because it quickly turns awkward and people start to feel bad for you. Also, everyone loves to laugh and it definitely relaxes people so try some humor in your presentation.
5. Story Time
Lastly, tell a story and a story that can 1) humanize your topic, 2) make yourself more relatable, and 3) be understood by everyone.
Instead of just spewing facts or fragmented thoughts, piece together a narrative that the audience can cling to. People are more likely to remember a storyline and one that they can easily follow. In other words, don’t use fancy vocabulary that only a small percentage of people will know. You want to be understood by everyone in the room, not just the few that know what your words mean. That being said, don’t treat the audience like their dumb and don’t know anything – there is a balance to everything.
6. The AhaSlides Way
My last tip is to ask your audience an interactive question with AhaSlides. With AhaSlides, you can use real-time voting and other exciting tools to engage your audience.
The results will display on your slide as a beautiful chart or in any other format you choose. They can even react to your slide by when your presenting. This will certainly WOW your audience especially because they have never seen this done before.
There are so many ways to engage your audience with AhaSlides, give it a try here- it’s free!