How to start a presentation and win over your audience from the get-go

6 minutes

As Sophocles said: ‘The best beginnings will be interactive, animated, and with Genially. Or they won’t be at all’. Well, actually Sophocles didn’t say that. But you’ve come here for foolproof tactics for how to start a presentation and that is what you will get.  

I’ve put together some top tips and advice, based on best practices for starting presentations and on the most famous speeches of all time. With these tips and your talent, you’ll have the perfect combo to make sure you captivate your audience from the word go. Let’s get into it!

5 tips for starting a presentation

1. Amaze them from the very start 

I’m sure you’ve got a perfect handle on the topic you’ll be presenting, so now all you need to do is come up with a brilliant beginning. Here are five options for reeling in a room of spectators hook, line, and sinker:

  • A rhetorical question. Interact with your audience and get them to reflect briefly on a point that’s relevant to your presentation. For example, try a question like ‘What if…? Can you imagine…? or How would you feel if…?’.
  • A joke to relax the mood, but only if you think humor fits the topic and tone of your presentation. And with your own personality. 
  • An amazing statistic. Do you have data on your topic? Throw out the most striking statistic of all and use it as a starting point if you think it is strong enough. The effect will be even more powerful if the data refers to or includes people in the audience. 
  • A problem. Construct a compelling opening line that summarizes the problem you will solve during the presentation. This way you’ll take your audience straight to the crux of the matter and they’ll want to know more.  
  • A story. Never underestimate the power of storytelling. Connecting your speech to a personal anecdote can be a fantastic way to spark empathy. Try things along the lines of ‘The other day I was…’, ‘When I was in school…’, ‘My mother always said…’, etc. All the best TED Talks do it. 

Try these options out and you’ll see. If you start with something that your audience doesn’t expect, you’ll catch their attention right off the bat. 

2. Make pauses and silence your best allies

If Mr. Keating made it work in The Dead Poets’ Society, you can do it too. Staying silent for a few seconds before you start your talk until you make sure you have the audience’s attention is a foolproof tactic. Use all your confidence and composure to wait for the right moment.

Pauses are also essential to pace your presentation and allow your audience time to assimilate the information. It is important to use them well from the start. For example, if you start with a problem or joke, give it a few seconds of silence to achieve the desired effect.

Remember that pauses can be as important as words. It goes without saying that you won’t win your audience over with silence, but if you don’t use pauses well, your speech will be hard to follow. And if you use them wisely, it will improve vastly. With great power comes great responsibility.

3. Focus your speech on connecting with the audience, not on yourself

Okay, so you’re an expert in the subject of your presentation, but you don’t need to spend the entire time demonstrating just how much you know. Nobody likes a know-it-all (with the exception of the universally adored Hermione Granger, of course). 

Your speech will go much better if you focus on connecting with your audience. It’s important to bear this in mind when thinking about how to start your presentation. It’s not enough to think about the formula for your opening words. How do you want them to feel? If you manage to activate your audience and make them feel something, you’re well on the road to success.

Check out this TEDx Talk; it’s bound to make you feel something.

4. Pay close attention to body language

As Homer Simpson said: ‘You don’t win friends with salad’. It doesn’t matter how much you prepare your speech, if you’re staring at the ground and your voice is little more than a peep, you’ll never win over your audience. Body language is a language and communicates a lot! And, if you demonstrate confidence in your tone and posture, you’ll start to feel it too.

Rehearse! Even if you think you don’t need to. Manage your gestures and tone of voice, and you’ll project credibility from the get-go. 

5. Use spectacular visual resources 

A presentation will help you express what you mean more effectively, but above all it will help your audience follow your speech. And, the more senses that get involved, the more comprehensive their experience and the more memorable your speech will be. 

Take good advantage of the cover slide of your presentation; it is a statement of intent. The cover will be displayed until you start changing slides. Don’t just write the title; make the most of it! 

Use visual storytelling to give your talk a different tone, such as a meme or sticker if you’re using humor, or an inspiring image to awaken the emotion in your audience that suits you best.Below we’ll share a selection of templates to get you well on your way and help you create a stunning start to your presentation.

  • Reports that invite exploration. Need to make a report and present it to a whole bunch of people? Make it super visual. Add your colors, information, and images… whatever you want!


Genial Report

  • This video for the win. This pastel and vintage-style template will have your audience eating out of your hand before they know what’s hit them.


Vintage Video


Digital Marketing Dashboard

  • A no-fuss, no-code guide. Create a minimalist-style microsite in a flash with this interactive template. Its eye-catching design and intuitive navigation offer the best experience for your audience.


No- code Microsite Guide

How NOT to start a presentation

One thing’s for certain: if you opt for the typical ways to start a speech that everyone uses, it’ll be difficult to get the attention you deserve.

There’s no need for greetings, apologies, or thanks, at least at the beginning. This is very common, and also very unnecessary. When you start your presentation, the audience will give you the benefit of the doubt for a brief moment. You have just a few seconds to get their attention and draw them in… or lose them forever. 

Those initial seconds are a valuable asset and you must invest wisely. Some say that this vital moment lasts about a minute, but I’m sure nobody waits that long. It will most likely take less than a minute for your audience to decide if they’re going to give you their full attention or simply disconnect.

It’s a big mistake to waste the key moments of your presentation using formulas that don’t provide value to the audience. These people in front of you have not come to hear hello or thank you. They’ve come because they think they’re going to get something from your presentation, be it fun, knowledge, inspiration, etc. Don’t leave room for them to think they’ve made a mistake in coming to see you. It’s a much better idea to let them know from the start that you’re going to meet their expectations, or maybe even exceed them, don’t you think? 

At the end of the speech, you can thank them briefly for their attention. By then you’ll have achieved the objectives of your presentation and your gratitude will be much better received.

Plenty to think about, right? Did you learn something new or are you already a whizz at breaking the ice? Share your tips!

Natalia De la Peña Frade
Natalia De la Peña Frade
Content creator: I try to write things you like to read

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