How To Start a Presentation and Keep The Audience Interested

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 September 2021

Whatever field you work in, it's likely that at some point in your career, you'll need to present something to colleagues or clients. Knowing how to start a presentation helps you to write presentations that are engaging and informative from the first slide. If you can capture your audience's interest at the beginning of your presentation, they're more likely to listen closely to the rest of it. In this article, we explain how to start an effective and interesting presentation while offering general presentation tips.

How to start a presentation

When you're deciding how to start a presentation, it's important to consider the purpose of your presentation and what you're hoping to achieve. It's a good idea to write up a quick draft of the structure your presentation takes before you start writing your first slide, as this can help you to decide what to include in your introduction. Here is some advice on how to start a presentation that's concise and engaging no matter what you're presenting:

1. Be patient when you begin

When you're in front of the room, it's important to be patient before you start your presentation. Wait for everyone else to finish their private conversations and ensure all eyes and ears are on you before you start speaking. This is the best way to guarantee you have both the attention and the respect of your audience before you begin.

2. Start with a brief introduction

Before you introduce your presentation, begin with a brief welcome slide and a quick introduction of yourself, particularly if you're presenting to people who don't know you. Introducing yourself and listing the credentials and experience that qualify you to speak on the subject you're presenting about gives credibility to your presentation, clarifying the position from which you're speaking. Your introduction needs to be quick, including:

  • a brief welcome

  • a few sentences about who you are and what qualifies you to speak on this subject

  • thanks to your audience for attending your presentation

3. List the topics, purpose and goals of your presentation

Once you've introduced who you are, it's time to introduce your presentation. While your audience might already know the general topic of the presentation, they probably don't know exactly which direction you're taking the presentation in or what your argument is going to be. It's important to set out the purpose and goals of your presentation at this point. This makes it easier for your audience to follow your presentation, linking up each point you make to your final argument. This portion of your introduction needs to include:

  • Introduce the topic of your presentation and the issues your presentation is exploring.

  • Explain your main argument and, briefly, what information you intend to use to support this.

  • Clarify the primary goals of the presentation.

4. Present your opening ideas

Now it's time to begin your presentation and introduce your opening ideas. In many cases, introducing your presentation means introducing a problem that needs solving. You can illustrate your opening ideas using facts, statistics or hypothetical questions to clarify and support what you're saying while hopefully lending weight to your arguments.

What is a presentation?

A presentation is any situation where you need to present your work or even yourself to an audience. That may mean presenting your research to a panel of senior colleagues, presenting results from a project to your team or even pitching yourself for a promotion or new job. Pitches tend to include you speaking for an extended period, accompanied by a digital presentation, including images and graphs or a handout. They may not always be formal occasions; some presentations may take place around a board table with everyone sat down.

Tips for writing engaging presentation starters

When you're writing your presentation, it's important to ensure that you present your opening ideas in a way that makes your audience pay attention. Your presentation's introduction emphasises how important the topic of your presentation is, using facts and other impactful rhetorical techniques to do this. Here are some ideas to help you when writing gripping presentation starters on a range of topics:

Surprise your audience

Surprising your audience is one way to ensure you have their attention. You can do this in lots of ways. You could use props or videos to take a humorous angle, or for more serious topics, you can use hard-hitting statistics to shock. If you do choose this strategy to start your presentation, make sure it suits your purpose. You want your audience to pay attention and appreciate the importance of the topic you're discussing, but keep your presentation professional and polite.

Use facts and statistics

Facts, particularly statistics, can create a strong impact when starting a presentation. Quoting surprising statistics can be a simple way to convince your audience of the seriousness of the issue you're discussing and may feature later in your presentation to support your arguments and evidence your recommendations. Present facts clearly and use visual charts and infographics on your slides to illustrate the facts you're presenting.

Ask 'What if...?'

Hypothetical questions can be a very effective way to prompt your audience into considering the topic of your presentation by using their imagination and considering how it might affect them or their friends and family. You can use this technique to make your presentation more emotive or to draw out certain emotions in your audience. This can be an effective way to start presentations on personal or political subjects, such as climate change, sustainable development, education or healthcare.

Quote your heroes

Starting your presentation with either a famous quote or a proverb is an effective way to earn your audience's attention. When choosing a quote, make sure that the quote you select is relevant to the topic you're discussing and supports your argument, even if you haven't made it yet. Explain the quote you choose, ensuring that your audience understands the meaning of the quote and your purpose for using it. Choosing a quote by a popular and well-known figure can also mean your audience is more likely to remember it.

Tell a story or a joke

Telling a story or a joke can help you highlight why your subject is important, while encouraging your audience to see the issues you're discussing within a wider context. Stories and jokes are memorable and easy to understand, and using historical anecdotes and events can even support your argument. If you're confident, you could start your presentation with a joke, but only in situations where this is appropriate. If you're not sure whether a joke is suitable for your presentation, it's better to forgo it.

Related: How To Take Your Presentation Skills to the Next Level

Tips for giving a presentation

A strong opening ensures that your audience is paying attention during the rest of your presentation, but improving your presenting skills is the only way to make sure the rest of your presentation has the desired effect. Take time to write your presentation, researching the best way to structure your presentation for impact. Consider the following tips when preparing for your next presentation:

Use the 10-20-30 rule

The 10-20-30 rule can help you to structure your presentation during the writing stages. This rule, which you can adapt for longer or shorter presentations, means that you need to aim to produce 10 or fewer slides, deliver them within 20 minutes and use text in size 30 font to ensure those at the back of the room can easily read it. The 10-20-30 rule can help you to focus on those things that matter: clarity and conciseness.

Related: How To Improve Public Speaking Skills To Communicate Effectively

Be confident

The most important aspect of your presentation is the content of your words, but a confident demeanour can also lend credibility to your presentation. Make eye contact with your audience, stand up straight and speak loudly and clearly to make sure that even those people sitting at the back of the room can hear you. If you're using notes, make sure you spend most of your time looking up at your audience rather than simply reading from your notes during your presentation.

Related: How To Build Confidence at Work

Pay attention to your audience

Your audience is expected to sit quietly and listen during your presentation, and this may not be the only presentation they're listening to that day. Observing the non-verbal cues of audience members can help you to keep track of your audience's engagement and interest, and signal when you might need to clarify something. Pay attention to your audience and use dynamic strategies to involve audience members and keep your presentation interesting to everyone in the room.