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Presentation Introduction

Start with a bang! Create a powerful presentation introduction.

Author: Bethany Auck

Nov 9, 2022

Author: <a href="" target="_self">Bethany Auck</a>

Author: Bethany Auck

Nov 9, 2022

Start with a bang! Create a powerful presentation introduction.

You have 8 seconds.

Did you know that the human attention span is decreasing?

8 seconds. That is all you have to create a connection and grab attention during a presentation introduction.

While we used to have a little while to draw in our audience, Microsoft’s recent study suggests that the first few seconds are crucial.

I’m Bethany Auck and I run SlideRabbit, a presentation services agency. I wanted to share a recent experience with working with a client on his narrative and particularly his opening.

Start with a bang!
Create a powerful presentation introduction.

Recently, our healthcare vendor contacted me. He has the pitch “of a lifetime” for a desirable client. He wanted advice on how to improve his pitch.

I took one look, and sure enough, his first 5 slides were throwaway material:

  1. Welcome
  2. Today’s Agenda
  3. Who am I?
  4. Company mission
  5. Company history

As Glenn Gibson, author of Before the Mic, reminded us at the Presentation Summit, always think less about what you want to tell your audience and MORE about what your AUDIENCE wants or needs to know.

Thinking about your narrative

Remember the last time you got caught in a conversation with someone who only talks about themselves? Did you find yourself itching to check your phone? Or escape entirely?

Don’t be that person! When you write your presentation, keep your focus on your audience. What are their pain points? What gets them excited? What are they hoping to learn or hear?

When you start by connecting with your audience you get buy-in from the beginning.

Don’t waste your first impression

It’s very common to start a presentation with the most boring slides in the deck – Welcome, Today’s Agenda, Our Company at a Glance.

Maybe this is a crutch; more likely it’s just habit.

Don’t do it!

When you start at this decelerated pace, you’ve already lost the chance to start with impact. From here, it’s hard to build excitement. The audience has likely already decided that this is just “the typical spiel.”

Kick those house keeping and admin slides out of your intro. Get right to the gravy!

Create a powerful presentation introduction

Now that you’ve adjusted the focus of our presentation introduction from your needs to the needs of the audience, and we’ve jettisoned those momentum-killing standard starters, how can we kick off the presentation in an engaging way?

Tell a story. Stories are captivating. We find them easily relatable and interesting. Perhaps a personal story to connect with the audience. Or a cautionary tale, to set up a problem that you are about to solve.

Pose a question. Did you know that questions light up our brains? We hear a question and immediately start to look for an answer, even if the question is rhetorical. Ask a question to auto-focus your audience’s minds.

Appeal to emotion. Creating an emotional reaction in your audience doesn’t just grab attention: it creates a memorable experience. Emotion seats information in our memories very effectively.

Create a visceral experience. According to Cliff Atkinson, author of Beyond Bullet Points, 95% of brain activity occurs at levels beneath consciousness. What does that mean? It means that the body and nervous system are responsible for how people experience the world. Bypass consciousness and create a visceral reaction in your presentation introduction, like a shiver, a gasp, or another unconscious reaction, to grab attention and hold it.

What else should we consider when dealing with 8 seconds of attention?

Now that you’ve captured your audience, don’t lose them! Consider how design tricks and speaking tactics can keep your audience engaged.

Bethany Auck is the Founder and Creative Director of Connect with her on the Guild Slack!

We’re very excited to learn from you!  If you work in any aspect of the presentation industry, have a pro tip or trick, lesson learned, or favorite resource to share, and would like to contribute to the Presentation Guild blog, please consider submitting an article for consideration on our blog post submission page.

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