Capturing your audience’s attention at the beginning of your presentation is critical to its overall success. It’s imperative that you’re able to drive interest right from the start so those listening are switched on and engaged with what you’re saying. Doing so means using powerful presentation openers that help you hit the ground running.
What Makes Good Presentation Openers?
Good presentation openers set the tone and agenda for what is to follow. They get the audience prepared for what’s next and help make them more receptive to the layers of presentation messaging you’ll subsequently build – so no pressure, then.
But exactly what’s the best way to open your presentation? Well, there’s no simple answer to this. Choosing the right opening for your presentation will depend on its objective, tone and content. Consider the 5 types of presentation openers below and choose one most appropriate for your message.
5 Brilliant Ways to Open Your Presentation
1.) The Statistic
You might not think it at first, but numbers can have real dramatic power when they’re delivered well. They give you the opportunity to subvert audience expectations and get them interested.
Of course, you don’t want to splurge all your most important data on your audience from the start – you’ll want to build a crescendo of messaging towards these reveals later. But a surprising or impressive statistic can help hook the audience’s attention. The more shocking or mind-blowing it is, the better.
To avoid confused stares from your audience, it’s important you seat any statistic in the proper context. Don’t just deliver the number on its own: frame it in a way that demonstrates to your audience why it matters.
For example, try something like ‘By the time I’ve finished this talk, X people will have been affected by [subject]’ as opposed to ‘[Subject] affects X people annually.
2.) The Question
Ah, starting off with a question: an oldie but goodie in the public speaking toolkit you can use to heighten audience engagement by addressing them directly.
There are a few ways you can go about opening your presentation with a question. You can use an entirely rhetorical one to get your audience thinking about and reflecting on your topic, or you can seek responses to turn your conversation into a two-way conversation.
Starting with question helps establishes an element of interactivity in your presentation, and while people might not want to be the first to speak out, you can pick individual audience members and ask them to elaborate once they put their hands up – this is a good way of showing that what you have to say affects them directly.
3.) The Opinion
Does the message running through your presentation point to a conclusion that goes against of refutes the currently accepted school of thought on your topic? Great, then you probably have some prime fodder for grabbing your audience’s attention.
Lead off with a contrarian statement right from the start to arouse curiosity. People will naturally want to find out why you think that way, so you’re in a great position to explain your position using your presentation content.
4.) The Value Proposition
Another good way of hooking your audience is to think of them as your customers. They only care about their own needs and priorities, and the whole reason that they showed up to listen to you is because they want to derive value from your presentation.
You can get them listening closely by acknowledging this fact and letting them know from the get-go exactly what they’ll get out of it. Try something like ‘By the end of this talk, you’ll know how to generate more sales through inbound marketing’. Obviously, don’t promise anything that you can’t deliver on, as this risks damaging your credibility.
5.) The Problem Solver
If your presentation is focused around launching a product or pitching for investment, then the subject of your presentation is probably aimed at solving some sort of problem. So why not open by describing it in depth?
Really dig into the pain points that the problem causes – amplify how bad the current situation is and why it needs to be solved. Once your audience recognises the breadth and depth of the problem, you’re in a prime position to solve it with the rest of your presentation, positioning your product or approach as the ‘hero’.
Remember that the problem can be one that your audience directly faces, but can also be one that creates issues for your end customers.