Man Presenting on a stage

How to start a presentation & hook your audience

In this blog, we look at how you can start a presentation with impact, so you can engage your audience from the outset. These tips apply equally well if you want to win a public speaking competition, become a motivational speaker, or simply deliver a presentation for work (but the way you implement the tips will change). With so many demands on an audience’s attention these days and attention spans getting shorter, delivering a powerful start to any presentation is essential now more than ever. We want the audience to put their phones and laptops aside so they can open their ears and begin to listen.

Here at Simply Amazing Training, one of the first things our public speaking coaches and trainers help clients to do is begin their presentation well. The key, firstly, is to look credible and interesting and then, secondly, to use our unique Simply Amazing Structure (SAS) to sound interesting and get clients engaged.

Make sure you look confident, credible and interesting

Before you even say a word, you know the audience will be sussing you out – unconsciously looking to see if you are worth following. It’s a natural thing to do – going back to our animal instincts, we are hardwired to be constantly aware of who the pack leader is at any moment. If you are at the front of the room, about to start your presentation, you want to make sure YOU look like the pack leader (because if you aren’t someone else will be!). Stand up straight, be confident and smile! Body language is hugely important from the beginning of starting a presentation and getting their attention.

If you are nervous about presenting, the audience can smell it a mile off, so make sure you take a look at our other blogs and videos on:

You can also check out our book “Taming Your Public Speaking Monkeys” or talk to one of our professional public speaking coaches today.

So, once you look the part, you also need to sound the part. To do that, start your presentation with two parts of the SAS:

LITTLE INTRO – setting the scene
WHY – getting the audience motivated to listen

If you’d like to know more about SAS and why our clients love it so much it’s spreading across the globe, there are three chapters dedicated to it in our book “High-Performance Presentations”, available on Amazon. Or, for now, here are some highlights:

 

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Setting the scene so it all makes sense

Firstly, you need to set the scene for your presentation with a short and snappy introduction, which we call the LITTLE INTRO. Of course, the audience wants to hear who you are and what you’re speaking about, but please, avoid telling them where you went to school or what you had for breakfast! A short introduction will suffice – a few sentences maximum.

The aim of this introduction is threefold:

  • To build a rapport with the audience, to show you are on a similar wavelength to them
  • To begin to build credibility with the audience if necessary
  • To ensure they know the context of the talk or presentation – so they can get their minds into the right place and ensure all of the audience are on the same page when you begin.

Warning: don’t start your presentation like this!

Many presentations start off with a 10-minute section on the speaker personally or their company – how long they’ve been established, how many international offices they have, who their staff are… boring! We believe in the, ‘I’ll think you’re amazing when you get on with it and tell me something I’m interested in’ school of thought! That said, you do need to have built enough credibility for them to begin to listen to you. Strike an appropriate balance. Often coming on stage with self-confidence and gravitas gives you enough credibility – after all, the reason you have probably been invited to speak on the stage is probably that you are an expert anyway.

 

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Help the audience see how they will benefit from listening

Immediately after the LITTLE INTRO, in order to capture their attention, you must answer the first question any audience member is asking: WHY? ‘Why would I want to listen to this talk?’ When you answer this, the listener will know why they want to engage fully and listen. If you, like me, didn’t know why you were learning things in school (like algebra) then this might have been the link that was missing – rarely did lessons start with how what you learnt connected with any real-life implications.

Warning: don’t assume that because they are there they will listen!

If you can’t think of any WHYs, change the talk. It’s your role to give the audience reasons to listen and clearly demonstrate what they’ll gain by listening. If the audience has been told to come to the talk, it’s even more important to cover the WHY section well. They may have been ‘told’ to turn up, however, no one but you can encourage them to listen and be persuaded. Time-wise, the WHY section isn’t long, but it is important. The intention is to give three strong and different reasons for listening. For example:

  • You’ll save time when you use this new software
  • You’ll reduce the number of customer complaints you receive
  • Your team will make fewer mistakes as it’s easier to monitor orders

If you need to spend more time getting people to buy-in to your topic (for example, if your topic is in any way controversial or if they have been told to attend), then there are many more interactive and engaging ways to deliver the WHY section. There’s more on this in my book “High-Performance Presentations”, or you can learn to personalise your all-important WHY section quickly and easily with the help of your own Simply Amazing Training accredited presentation skills coach, who can work through your specific presentation with you.

After the LITTLE INTRO and the WHY, sections have been done well (and that may only take 1- 3 minutes), then you’re ready to move onto the content of your presentation, i.e. WHAT you’ll be covering.

To learn more about this and the other stages of the SAS (WHAT? HOW? and WHAT IF?) visit our blog, buy our book or get in touch with our professional public speaking coaches located in London and the surrounding areas. 

 

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Dee Clayton

Posted by Dee Clayton on 10 Oct 2019

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