Start a Presentation

You only get one chance to make a great first impression, which is important to consider when planning a presentation. The way you start your presentation should grab your audience’s attention, establish your credibility, and project your confidence. Some simple strategies can help you to make sure that your next presentation gets off to a great start. Keep reading to learn how to start a presentation.


Setting the Stage

  1. Stand tall and confident. Take a moment to do a quick posture check before you walk out in front of your audience. If you are slouching, you may seem like you lack confidence. Stand up as straight and tall as you can to ensure a confident posture. Keep standing tall as you walk out in front of your audience and begin your presentation.[1]
  2. Arrange your notes and other materials. A well-organized podium will help you avoid any unnecessary fumbling as you speak. Before you start your presentation, you should take a moment to lay out your notes and any other materials that you will need. Before you begin your presentation, distribute any handouts that your audience will need.[1]
  3. Make eye contact with your audience. Making eye contact with your audience during a presentation makes you appear more authoritative and confident. Before you even begin your presentation, you should make eye contact with someone near the back of the room and hold it for a few seconds as you give your introduction. Then, continue to make eye contact with audience members as you present your material.[2]
  4. Skip the usual introduction. One of the most boring ways to start a presentation is to tell the audience your name. If you want to make sure that they know your name, put it on the first slide of your visual aid or at the top of a handout that you distribute. Just don’t waste your precious opening by saying, “Good morning. My name is…”[3]
  5. Jump right in. It might seem normal to start your presentation with an icebreaker or with some information that does not have anything to do with your presentation. But starting this way will waste time and cause your audience to lose interest. To get your audience engaged, you need to give them what they came for right away. Start your presentation immediately to make sure that you don’t lose your audience’s attention.[4]

Choosing a Great Opening Line

  1. Tell a story. Stories are one of the best ways to grab your audience’s attention because we all love a good story. Use a relevant story about your personal experience, an anecdote from your research, or an invented analogy to introduce your subject. Keep your story under 90 seconds and then continue with your presentation.[5]
  2. Ask your audience a question. Inviting your audience to participate in your presentation from the start will get them interested in your subject. Asking your audience a question is a great way to get to get them involved. You don’t even have to ask a question that they need to answer. You could ask a rhetorical question meant to stimulate their thought processes and prepare them for the rest of your presentation.[6]
  3. Say something shocking. Sharing a shocking statistic or fact will grab your audience’s attention and get them interested to hear more. By sharing something shocking with your audience, you will get them to care about your topic within the first 15 seconds of your presentation. Just make sure that you are honest. Don’t make up a statistic or bend the truth about something just to have something shocking to share.[7]
  4. Share a meaningful quote. Kicking off your presentation by sharing a meaningful quote by a famous or respected person will also set your presentation up for success. A well-chosen quote can serve to grab your audience’s attention, build your credibility, and introduce your subject. Just make sure that the quote you choose is relevant to your topic. Don’t choose a quote just because you like it.[8]
  5. Use a visual aid. Showing your audience an interesting image can also get your presentation off to a great start. Select an image that is relevant to your presentation or at least one that has some symbolic value for your topic. Remember that your goal with an image should not be to simply provide a background for your presentation, your images should also help your audience understand your topic. Open with an image that will engage your audience and help them understand the big picture of your topic.[9]
    • Instead of an image, you could use a prop or some other physical object to get your audience interested in your topic.
    • You might also consider using a video to start your presentation. Just make sure the video is not too long or you may not have enough time to present your material.

Projecting Confidence with Your Voice and Words

  1. Leave hedges out of your presentation. Hedging is when you second guess your authority by saying things like “I think,” “In my opinion,” “seems like” “kind of” and other wishy-washy statements. Hedging makes you seem less authoritative and less confident. Try to leave hedges out of your presentation, especially your opening. Instead, make bold authoritative statements in your introduction to show them that you are trustworthy.[10]
  2. Ask questions that matter. Asking questions that you are going to answer right after or that are not really worthy of debate will also lead your audience to believe that you lack authority. It’s okay to ask a meaningful question or two during the opening to your presentation, just don’t overdo it. Keep questions thoughtful and to a minimum.[10]
  3. Lower your voice at the end of sentences. Raising your voice at the end of a question is similar to asking a question. This simple change in pitch may lead your audience to conclude that you are uncertain about the claims that you are making. Instead of raising your voice at the end of your sentences, lower it at the end of your sentences. Lower your voice at the end of a sentence makes you seem more authoritative and confident.[10]


  • Keep a glass of water handy in case your mouth gets dry while you are talking. A bottle of water will work too, but a glass is better because you won’t have to fumble with a lid.

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Sources and Citations

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