The goal of any presentation is winning over your audience and that starts with your opening statement. Research suggests that you have between 30-90 seconds to grab your audience’s attention before they begin tuning you out. Hooking your audience at the beginning of your presentation is critical to its overall success. It’s absolutely imperative that you capture your listeners’ attention right from the start so they are engaged with what you are saying. For this reason, you need to have an entertaining intro that is captivating and helps you to hit the ground running.
What Makes a Good Presentation Intro?
Strong presentation openers set the tone for what’s to come. Listeners want to know whether or not your presentation is worth listening to and they will make that determination within the first minute. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to start with something unpredictable. Research shows that when we know what to expect (for instance flipping a light switch will turn the light on), we don’t pay attention to what happens after the cue. Conversely, when we don’t know what to expect, we pay more attention. Here are a few ideas for incorporating an interesting and unpredictable introduction at the beginning of your presentation.
- Make a Bold Claim
Think about Martin Luther King Jr’s memorable “I Have a Dream” speech. It begins with the words, “I am happy to join you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” That’s quite a claim and it’s bold to say the least. The audience couldn’t help but pay attention after an opener like that. State your claim boldly and confidently right at the beginning and let your audience know exactly what they will gain from your presentation. After that statement, they will be hanging on to your every word.
- Use a Statistic
Never underestimate the power of numbers. When delivered well, they can have a dramatic effect on the audience. A surprising or unusual statistic can hook the audience’s attention and really captivate their interest. Remember, the more shocking and mind-blowing the statistic, the better!
- Tell a Story
Storytelling is one of the oldest yet most effective ways to communicate with an audience. People love a good story and this is a great technique for beginning a presentation. Stories are effective because they delight, inspire, and intrigue audiences and they help to make the topic more relatable.
- Stimulate Curiosity
One of the most powerful ways to begin a presentation is by stimulating curiosity. Research has shown that curiosity prepares the brain for learning, and that’s important for a presenter because you want your audience to listen and retain the information. When our curiosity is piqued, we long to know the answer so we start paying attention to try and figure it out. So, how exactly can you stimulate curiosity? You could start by announcing a secret that you have to confess or describing a person that you met without disclosing their name. You could even conduct an experiment on stage without talking and let the audience try and figure out what you are doing. All of these are interesting and entertaining options and they will leave the audience paying close attention to try and figure out the answers.