How to Start a Speech or Presentation – 2023 update

How do you start a speech or presentation with impact?

Think how you typically start a speech or start a talk. Do you begin with any of these lines?:

– Hi, my name is … and I’m here to talk about…

– Before I start, I want to introduce myself…

– Thank you all for coming, I’m really pleased to be here…

 

If you do this, you are wasting the most important part of your speech or presentation.

Why? Because audiences form an impression within seconds. They quickly decide whether or not to pay attention.

That’s why it’s so important to hook your audience at the start of a speech immediately.  And as a leader, great communication skills are vitally important. In addition, psychologists have demonstrated a phenomenon known as the primacy effect. Your audience is more likely to remember the first bits of information they hear. Working with a speech writer/coach can help you make the impact you want.

Instead, use one of our recommended four ways to start a talk or start your business presentation:

Break the bad habit of bad beginnings.

1. Tell a story at the start of your presentation

2. Ask a question to start a speech

3. Describe a scenario when you start a talk

4. Do something unexpected

How to start a speech or presentation – Option 1: Tell a story

Is there a short relevant anecdote that you could open with? If you can, use a local or topical angle. Your audience will then know that you have tailored your talk for them. This will help to keep things fresh for you, particularly if you are delivering the same talk or presentation several times.

Or perhaps you could keep your audience in suspense with this one simple trick:

Watch this technique in action: See how designer Danit Peleg starts a speech with a short anecdote that sets the scene.

How to start your talk - Danit Peleg Ted Talk

How to start a speech or presentation – Option 2: Ask a question

This could be a rhetorical question to make the audience think, or it could involve asking the audience to respond, usually by raising their hands if something applies to them. Alternatively, you could set out the question that your presentation will address.  Work with your coach to find the best technique for you. Read our article on using powerful language in your talks.

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Watch this technique in action: Here’s how 17 year-old Raymond Wang – winner of the 2015 Intel Science and Engineering Fair top prize – uses the question technique to start his TED talk.

how to start a presentation - Raymond Wang TED Talk

How to start a presentation or talk – Option 3: Describe a scenario

This technique blends the first two approaches. You set a scene and then prompt the audience to imagine what they would do or think in those circumstances.  Scenarios are an effective way of demonstrating the relevance of abstract topics to the lives of the audience.

To use this technique:

  1. Give an everyday example.
  2. Get the audience to consider their own viewpoint
  3. Then set out to change or challenge it.

Watch this technique in action: See UPS’s Human Resource Manager, Regina Hartley, begin her presentation by setting out a scenario.

How to start a talk or presentation - regina hartley ted talk

How to start a speech or presentation – Option 4: Do something unexpected

Will your audience have certain expectations about you or your talk, before you begin?

In this case, start with something unexpected – or even shocking – to make them reconsider their preconceived ideas.  The way you do this needs to be relevant to avoid being gimmicky. When done well, it can be memorable, potentially humorous and even remarkable – with audience members sharing and reliving their reactions afterwards. Perhaps your presentation skills coach can help find a way for your talk to stand out?

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Watch this technique in action: Our final example is Mohammed Qahtani, the winner of the 2015 Toastmasters Championship. Watch how he starts his thought provoking speech on the power of words.

world champion public speaking starting speech

Of course, most people who speak well will have worked with a coach at some point.  If you need help choosing a great public speaking coach, read our guide to choosing a public speaking coach

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How to Start a Business Presentation

best persuasive investor presentation

How do you start a business presentation? When presenting, the first few seconds of your talk are the most important.

You can win, or lose, your audience within the first 10 seconds. Learn how to start your presentation powerfully. Structuring an opening that grabs attention and sets the scene means the audience will be with you at the all-important beginning.

Contact us for business presentation skills training

Grab attention to start a business presentation

First impressions matter. Before you start speaking, your audience will be on your side.  They want to hear what you have to say and are interested in your views. You job is to meet their expectations.  You can do this by seizing their interest from the beginning. If you are talking to a group about a new idea coming from your division, make sure what you say up front will be interesting to the audience.

For example “By adopting this new process, your division can save 6 hours per day” will be much more effective than “Today I’m going to tell you about a new process we have been trying in our division”. If you can show from the beginning how your audience can benefit from listening further, then your opening will work.

Create anticipation when you start your business presentation

The point of the start of your business presentation is to create interest for the next thing you are going to say.  Being slightly enigmatic is often a good approach. For example, opening with a question such as “Do you want to know how you can save money and lose weight?   I’ll show you how.” Will automatically get people on the edge of their chairs listening for the answer to your question.

Set the scene at the beginning

You want to get to the point in your first line.  Don’t be vague and imprecise; be clear and full of impact. Think of stating a news headline: your opening should be short and precise.  It should summarise the story and leave you wanting to know more. So, to summarise, if you can grab attention, set the scene and create anticipation, then your opening is going to help you start your presentation with impact.

Ask about business presentation skills training

How to start a business presentation

Tips on how to start your next business presentation

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Do you need help with a speech or presentation?

At Benjamin Ball Associates we help you build your presentation skills so you can create and deliver powerful talks and presentations.

We work face-to-face and via video conference.

Call Louise on + 44 20 7018 0922 or email louise@benjaminball.com

Find out more and discuss your upcoming speech or presentation.   We will help you become much better with public speaking coaching.

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Further resources to improve your public speaking

How to use stories in your business presentations

Ways to become a confident presenter

How to speak like a leader

Logos Ethos Pathos – how to use the persuasive three appeals

How to choose a public speaking skills coach

How to create a great pitch book

Public speaking tips

Transform your public speaking body language

Presentation skills coaching course

Start improving your public speaking skills today

About Benjamin Ball Associates

Benjamin Ball Associates Team

At Benjamin Ball Associates, we help clients to pitch, present & persuade.

Over the last 15+ years the award-winning BBA team has supported thousands of executives globally to present powerfully. You get access to a transformational toolbox of techniques to help you become a clear, confident communicator.  We’ll help you create a powerful first impression that hooks and engages your audience immediately, and we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.

Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email louise@benjaminball.com to find out more and discuss your upcoming talk or presentation.

Contact us to improve your presentation skills

Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.

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Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.

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