Presenting in front of potential clients, your coworkers or pitching a new idea to any group of people can sometimes seem nerve-racking. The moment you step up, your heart rate quickens, pulse increases, sweaty palms emerge… Presentations hold a lot of weight, and are often the determining factor to getting funded, receiving a promotion or landing a job. You need to leave a lasting impression while demonstrating knowledge and competency about your topic. In a world of ever decreasing attention spans, starting strong has never been more important. Keeping that in mind, here are a few tips on how to nail the beginning of your presentation.
First and Foremost, Be Professional
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? That phrase has been used since the 1860s to remind people that we shouldn’t prejudge the value of something based on outward appearance alone. But we’re human! People are prone to make judgements based on appearance. Certain situations require us to dress more professionally and that includes giving a presentation. A person wearing jeans may be just as experienced and intelligent as a person wearing a suit, but people assess attributes based on what they see. Remember, your first impression will be the one that people see
Start With an Attention Grabber
At the start of your presentation, begin with an attention grabber. You want to give your audience pause and reason to direct their attention to you. Your first words should be delivered confidently and portray you as an expert in your area. Begin with a sentence or two that contains substance and intriguing information. A staggering statistic may be just what it takes to draw your audience in. It is up to you to convince your audience that your presentation is worth listening to.
Tell a Story
We cannot stress enough the importance of storytelling! Whether your presentation is personal or business related, a story is more persuasive, relatable and memorable than sheer facts alone. The beginning of your presentation is an ideal time to tell a personal story that relates to your topic but offers an emotional element that the audience can connect to. After all, you only have a short amount of time to capture the attention you need and while your audience may not remember every detail of your presentation, they will remember a story and how you made them feel.
Most may think memorizing your presentation word for word is the safest way to ensure you get all your information in. However, memorizing actually increases the likelihood you’ll mess up. Trying to recite the exact same words may not work in the moment, or a question from the audience can throw you off pace resulting in a major brain freeze. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rehearse. You can still have a successful presentation without rehearsing word for word. Instead, try rehearsing with high-level note cards and have main talking points in your head. Allow yourself leeway on the topic and do enough run-throughs ahead of time so that you are completely familiar with the topic and anticipate any questions or objections from the audience.
Make the most of your pitch opportunity and implement these ideas to ensure you start strong and set the tone for the rest of your presentation, where obviously you are going to kill it.