10 Great Ways to Start a Presentation

When I saw the title “10 Terrible Ways to Start a Presentation” I was hooked. It’s a good headline. And when I read the article, it delivered. Those are, indeed, bad ways to start a presentation. But there were no suggestions of what to do. I realized what I really wanted: 10 great ways to start a presentation. 10 alternatives to these terrible options.

If you want something done right, do it yourself! I’ve seen a lot of great presentations at conferences and in client meetings. After some thought, I’ve pulled together my recommendations.

Here they are: 10 great ways to start a presentation.

10 Great Ways to Start a Presentation

1. The goals

Not: The Agenda

What the Presenter Said:
“Hello people. I’ve asked you all to join me today to accomplish the following items.”

What the Audience Heard:
“There’s a reason you’re here, and I’m going to make the most of the your time.”

2. Story

Not: Video

What the Presenter Said:
“In thinking about this topic, I found myself reminded of a time when…”

What the Audience Heard:
“This is a topic I consider frequently and care about.”

3. I want to be here

Not: I don’t want to be here

What the Presenter Said:
“I’m so excited to be here with a group of people who share my interest in this field.”

What the Audience Heard:
“This is exciting! I’m with my people, and we’re going to learn from each other!”

4. Inviting interaction

Not: Changing Roles

What the Presenter Said:
“How many of you are here to learn about X?”

What the Audience Heard:
“I want to target my presentation to those of you in the audience.”

5. The quote, explained

Not: The Quote

What the Presenter Said:
“When I first heard Albert Einstein say ‘the definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect different results’ I realized how well it described our industry. For years, I repeated the same process, beginning with…”

What the Audience Heard:
“This presenter thinks of new ways to approach my process.”

6. Will break down complexity

Not: Will do my best

What the Presenter Said:
“Hello everyone. While this can be an intimidating topic, I’ve found it can be broken down into a few steps.”

What the Audience Heard:
“Hi everyone. This is a topic that no one really understands, and I can give you the key to grasping it.”

7. We have similar backgrounds

Not: Endless pitch

What the Presenter Said:
“I’m José da Silva, Managing Partner, responsible for our Supply Chain area. Many of you work in supply chains, and that’s what brought me here. I want to help you improve supply chains with a specific knowledge of how to…”

What the Audience Heard:
“My experience is relevant, because it’s similar to yours.”

8. More to come

Not: Not relevant

What the Presenter Said:
“We could talk about this topic for hours. I’ll focus on a few areas, and then I’m happy to follow up with anyone interested after the fact.”

What the Audience Heard:
“This is going to be a detailed topic, and there’s more to learn after this talk.”

9. Conversation welcome

Not: Unprepared presenter

What the Presenter Said:
“I’ve prepared some slides, but I’m going to stop frequently to take questions.”

What the Audience Heard:
“I’m not tied to a monologue, and I’d love to have more of a group dialogue.”

10. Something for everyone

Not: Nothing in There for Me

What the Presenter Said:
“I’d like to thank everyone for being here, and I am going to use our time to cover several examples that mirror our diverse audience.”

What the Audience Heard:
“Something in this should be exactly what I’m looking for.”

What’s the Difference Between a Great Presentation and a Terrible One?

A lot of my examples aren’t terribly different from Danielle Daly Sabaris’s article. So what changes her terrible examples from my great ones? Typically, it’s detail and enthusiasm.

In most of Sabaris’s examples of terrible presentation starters, the presenter either apologized for content or used a vague opener to try to capture everyone’s attention. When a presenter shares details, people feel more invested. When a presenter is excited about a topic, that excitement is contagious.

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