A successful start for a presentation

In a previous article, I explained the content of a good presentation introduction. Based on this article I want to give you more details for a successful start of a presentation. The following chapters show the content of an introduction. The order of the chapters is already according to the order you should use them in your presentation.

 
Waiting for the right moment to start

Before you can begin your presentation it is important to deal with the first hurdle: Wait for the right moment to start. Please, do not proceed as a teacher. So, do not step in front of your audience with the statement: “May I please ask for silence, as I want to start now.” With such a procedure, you can be sure to get more antipathy and perhaps you build up your presentation at an unsteady base.

You may not call for attention. The audience must give you their attention voluntarily. Most times it isn’t difficult to reach this goal. When you are ready for your presentation and any preparatory work such as opening the PowerPoint presentation or providing a flipcharts has finished, simple position yourself in front of the audience and look into the crowd.

Even if the audience is still engrossed in heated discussions, this situation will calm down quickly. After a short time the first participants will notice that you want to start and will give you their attention. Thanks to group dynamics this will be noticed by other participants and they will also join and you get their attention. Even people who are deeply involved in a conversation will become silent when they realize that everyone is silent around them. Try this and observe your audience. It’s funny to see this group behaviour. And please stay calm if it takes a little longer until the participant will become silent and give you their attention. This period of time will seem much longer to you than it actually is.

 
Welcome and Introduction

You should start your presentation with a friendly welcome of your audience. The kind of your welcome sentence depends very much on the audience. This can sometimes be more and sometimes be less formal. But I think the most important thing is a personal welcome of the audience. So you should not use a general phrase like: “Ladies and Gentlemen”. But you may use this general phrase and extend it with personal things according to your audience: “My very honourable representatives of the company xyz”. This is a general and formal greeting, but already with the necessary touch of personal address.

After the welcome, you should introduce yourself. Your audience is very curious and wants to know who they’re dealing with. So call your name, and optionally the company where you are employed. Then the most important thing is that the audience accepts you as appropriate speaker. So state your skills, which qualifies you for this topic. But really limit yourself on this subject-specific competencies. If you tell your complete curriculum vitae, brag that you can speak 10 languages ​​fluently and call the list of all your titles, you will encounter rejection from the audience. But if you limit your introduction on the topic relevant skills you will be accepted as a suitable speaker.

 
Generate need by the audience

Before you show your actual presentation topics, you should get audience’s attention. You can do so by using an interesting opening theme. Maybe you reference to an actual press article. So try to show an actual issue that you will address and resolve in your presentation. You have to raise the needs by the audience. They have to have a need for the presentation results.

At next, you should use this opening them and tell the topic of your presentation reconciled. In most cases it is sufficient to tell the topic in one sentence.

 
Goals

After you have shown the topic of your presentation in a short sentence, you should address your goals. Your presentation must have a clear goal. This should be communicated as orientation for the audience. It’s also possible to have multiple targets. In this case, however, the focus may be lost quickly. Therefore always try to focus on one or two goals only.

 
Turn on the beamer

Yes, you read that right. Only now you should show your PowerPoint presentation. This aspect is underestimated by many speakers. If you already show your slides at the start of the introduction, then the audience will read it and may be distracted. The secondary things, like your slides will usually get more attention than the main program, your talk. If you omit this distraction in your introduction, you will gain a lot more attention from the audience.

 
Agenda and timeframe

As a final point of your introduction you should show the agenda of your presentation. Name the important topics and give the participants an information how long your speech will be. This information may be presented in the following form: „In the next hour I will present the following topics.“ If your presentation is relatively long you can also give a timeframe for each topic

Summary
A successful start into a presentation should cover the following points:

  • Welcome your audience
  • Introduce yourself and your competences
  • Motivate the audience
  • Get attention of the audience
  • Generate need by the audience (they have to have a need for the presentation results)
  • Show the topic
  • Show the goal of the presentation
  • Turn on the beamer
  • Show agenda with structure and timeframe of the presentation
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