How to Start a Presentation: Don’t Overthink It

how to start a presentationThe hardest part of any presentation is the beginning. The first words you speak will determine the audience’s reaction to the information presented and to your performance. Understanding the right way to start a presentation will help you attract the audience’s attention and prepare them for what comes next.

Most people have more anxiety about public speaking then they should. This anxiety comes from the traditional public speaking format that we are taught in school. Fortunately, that format is only used in school. Modern public presentations are informal and relaxed. The audience does not expect, or want, an academically strict presentation. They want the facts presented in an entertaining way.

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Here are some tips for starting a presentation the right way:

1. Attention

A short attention-grabbing statement works the best. Jokes and personal anecdotes are not only unnecessary, they are inappropriate. Grabbing the audience’s attention is just that, getting them to focus on you. A simple one-line statement is all that is required. Let’s get started and can I have your attention, please? are two great opening lines that quickly grab attention. Do not over think it. Just say it and move on.

2. Welcome

Once you have their attention. Welcome the audience to your presentation. This does not have to be a long speech. Again, a short one-sentence statement work best. Welcome to our company and thank your for coming are short introductions that fulfill every expectation the audience might have. Again, do not over think it. Just say it and move on.

3. Introduction

After you have welcomed the audience to your presentation, introduce yourself. You do not have to tell the audience your entire life’s story. Just tell them your name and position within your company. Again, a short one-sentence statement works best. Do you see a pattern forming? Short and to the point. The longer you talk, the more restless the audience will become. They did not come to hear your personal stories. They want the information contained in your presentation. The quicker you can get to that information, the happier your audience will be. When it comes to short introductions, my name is John Smith and I am the Chief Operations Officer for my company works every time.

4. Purpose

In one short sentence, state the purpose of your presentation. I would like to discuss the next version of our product is a great one-line purpose statement if you are really going to talk about the next version of your product. The problem most people have with public speaking is they over think the entire process. Unlike what you were taught in school, it is not a formal or rigid event. If you make a mistake, laugh at yourself with the audience.

5. Questions

Before diving into the important information, inform the audience how you will be dealing with questions. Please hold all question until the end and I will be answering questions as we go along so just raise your hand are both completely acceptable statements that briefly and precisely address questions.

Your entire open statement should be no more complicated that this:

Okay, let’s get started. Thank you for coming. My name is John Smith and I am the Chief Operating Officer of Udemy. I would like to talk to you today about how Udemy is going to help democratize education. I will be taking questions as we go so just raise your hand if you have a question.

It is that simple.

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