Your favourite presentation attention grabbers or ice breakers

We asked our readers what they thought were the best ice breakers to use in a presentation.   Here are the results…
Laugh out loud

Paull Murray

Paull Murray

Ask all to stand, put their hands on their hips, throw their head back and laugh as loud as they can.

It’s infectious, the body releases endorphins, and a high positive energy is established in the room.

Try it, laugh as loudly as you can, see how it energises you.

Paull Murray, Managing Director at TTG International Management

The one at a time joke

Matt Gambino

Matt Gambino

Humour works for me, and usually loosens up the group. I have used this one from time to time when presenting to very large audiences (hundreds or more):

“My name is Matt Gambino, and I’m the… You know, whenever I present to a group, I find that it helps me to get to know a little about it. So then… sir, if you wouldn’t mind telling me your name… …we’ll go one by one. Shouldn’t take long.”

Matt Gambino, Trainer, Speaker, Author, Marketing/Inside Sales VP at Catapult Learning

The smile

The best ice breaker that I know of is not “a” smile, but “THE” smile. Not the cheshire cat grin, not the smile constantly deformed by words attempting to make their way through your horizontally stretched lips, not the fake smile that doesn’t even tighten your eyes, not the lipstick photogenic smile you put on in front of a camera… but the HAPPY smile born out of the sincere happiness of being able to communicate something of value to your audience, the SILENT smile unencumbered by words, the RELAXED smile from a relaxed face, The GLOWING smile that radiates from your lips and touches your eyes. Such a smile also touches your audience. It moves its attitude towards you from neutral to positive.


Jean-Luc Lebrun

If you find it hard to smile, if audience pressure depresses your levator and zygomaticus muscles, take heart. Look at that smiling face in the audience and let it warm you and vaporise your anxiety. The great scientist and philosopher Pascal found that out. And never mind the number of muscles required to smile (13**), because what matters is the source of their signal to trigger your smile: the heart of a presenter who cares about the people in the audience, a heart filled with gladness because the people in the room have accepted your invitation to come and listen to you. They are your guests, you are their host. SMILE 🙂

Jean-Luc Lebrun, writer and trainer of scientists

Shock value is priceless

James Watson

James Watson

An objective of every presentation is to capture the attention of the audience, and cause them to remember you and your message. At the start of your presentation, do or say something that will completely surprise the audience; something that will catch them off-guard; something that each member of the audiene will absolutely remember.

Then, using clear and simple words, connect that “shock” directly to your core message.

James Watson, CRM Consultant & Value Engineer

Sue Fielder

Sue Fiedler

Tell a story

I’m a firm believer in “stories”. If you tell a story that ties to your topic and is self-deprecating to you the presenter, it will usually endear you to the participants.

Sue Fiedler Sr. Training & Dev Specialist at Driscoll Children’s Hospital

Lee Jackson

Lee Jackson

Start with a self depreciating comment

People want to know “you”, so a little fun slightly self-depreciating comment goes a long way these days. Listing your job title and credentials is yawns-ville and the research shows a waste of time for anyone under 50!

Lee Jackson, schools speaker  and teacher trainer

Why I’m pleased to be here

My advice is keep it close to yourself. I often start with explaining why I bother to talk about the topic, or why I am pleased to be at the specific conference or occasion. If it has value for me, it might have value for them. If I invest effort because it has meaning, it might have meaning for them to. Once more, if it is genuine, it works.

Derk-Jan de Grood, test expert and test consultant

Ellen Finkelstein

Ellen Finkelstein

Ask a question

As an ice breaker, I always like to ask the audience a question (usually one easy to answer – for example, how many have experienced x?) It turns the presentation into a discussion and gets the audience’s attention. I often start a presentation by asking a question and getting feedback and then usually do the same some time in the middle.

Ellen Finkelstein, author, publisher, expert on AutoCAD, PowerPoint, and presenting

Situational questions

Vishal Londhe

Vishal Londhe

I start my presentations by asking questions to the audience.  The questions vary from situation to situation.  For example, I was giving presentation on the leadership styles of Steve Jobs.  I started my presentation by asking the question, “Why are the Apple products so famous ?”  Though it’s just a simple question, it is enough to grab the attention of the audience, as everyone in the auditorium wants to be the first person to give the answer.

Vishal Londhe, Management student at Mumbai University

Jan Iedema

Jan Iedema

Encourage Debate

What I like to do is bring a strong argument into my presentation. Something that triggers my audience to listen, to pay attention and to interact. Sometimes to undermine my arguments, sometimes to endorse them. The combination of an argument with some humour certainly works.

Jan Iedema, Voor de verandering

Do you have any good attention grabbers or ice breakers?  Leave your ideas in the comments box below.


Published On: 22nd Mar 2010

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  1. My students need to complete a workshop on, “How to Keep your Audience Engaged and not Snoozing”
    any suggestions.
    We were going to give some facts of how to get the audiences attention and then present the information and how to change strategies.
    Any suggestions would be helpful!

    angel202 3 Apr at 10:23 pm
  2. how i download this?

    nagesh 26 Apr at 10:48 am
  3. Just researching your web site , the tips & info are brilliant, thanks

    karen 9 Jun at 8:59 pm
  4. I agree with Sue Fiedler – beginning with a story, ideally one which seems irrelevant, and then has its relevance made apparent, is a very good way to show your audience that you’re in control of what’s happening

    Daran 10 Jun at 11:06 am
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