Presentation Magazine

How to start a presentation

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The first minute after you start speaking is crucial. Your audience wants you to succeed, but they also judge you pretty quickly. So don’t be boring in that first minute!


…say “My name is x and my topic is y. Let’s get started.”

…just read the name of your presentation and go to the next slide


Ask the audience a question: This can be a raising of hands for an informal poll or you can ask individuals to shout out answers. For example, if you are speaking at a conference about how boomers and millennials can communicate better with each other, you could ask how many people have felt that they couldn’t easily get their thoughts across to people in other age groups. This is my favorite technique. (Secret: Engaging the audience in this way will make you feel less nervous, because your audience will become a group of individual people.)

Tell a story: People love a good story, but yours has to be engaging and relevant.

Tell the audience a startling fact or statistic: Pique their curiosity about your topic with a fact they didn’t know.

Engage them right away

The beginning is when your audience is paying attention. Studies have shown that you lose people gradually after that, and by 15-20 minutes, many people aren’t paying attention. So don’t lose people with a boring start!

AFTER you’ve engaged people, you can do a more formal introduction to explain:

  • Who you are
  • Your topic
  • Why it’s important to your audience

Hint: Don’t spend a lot of time on who you are. It’s inherently boring to your audience. In many cases, they already know who you are.

Another hint: You can craft a story about an experience you had, how you came to know what you’ll be talking about, that is both interesting and incorporates information about who you are.

Explaining the importance of your topic to your audience is essential. What will they get out of it? This is especially true if you’re doing required training. When your audience hasn’t freely chosen to be there, you need to inspire them to want to be there.

I have another post, called A good introduction/opener, that has more information on this topic.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Ellen Finkelstein – View the original post .


About the author


Guest Blog by

Ellen is a PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional, a Microsoft award), one of only 11 in the United States and 40 in the world. Her well-known website at offers many PowerPoint tips, a blog, and the free PowerPoint Tips Newsletter. She specializes in training speakers and presenters to convert Death by PowerPoint to Life by PowerPoint; communicate clearly and powerfully; and design high-impact, persuasive and professional-looking slides.

She is an Amazon bestselling author. Some of her books and e-books are PowerPoint for Teachers: Dynamic Presentations and Interactive Classroom Projects, How to Do Everything with PowerPoint 2007 (and three earlier editions), Slide Design for Non-Designers, 101 Tips Every PowerPoint User Should Know, The Lost Art of Persuasion, and others. She has written numerous articles on presenting and PowerPoint for Microsoft’s website and blog, Inside PowerPoint,, PresentationXpert, Presentations magazine, and more.

Ellen Finkelstein has done training for Citrix, Brainshark, Disney, Microsoft, Pennsylvania State Education Association, Maharishi University of Management, State University of New York at Buffalo, State University of Illinois, Vastu Homes, and others. She does on-site training, 1-on-1 virtual coaching/training, and live workshops. Read other posts by

Published On: 31st Oct 2016

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