How to start a Presentation

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It always strikes me how people think about their presentations or how they prepare their presentations. I’m actually talking about the first words, the first sentences of a presentation. What most people do is; they think of a presentation, so automatically, you think about a PowerPoint. So you make your slides, you look at your slides, and you think about what will I say showing each slide.

But my question to you is this; what are your first words? What are your first sentence? Very few people think about that. Just think a minute about the presentations that you have already seen in the past, maybe the presentations that you have done yourself? There is a cliche sentence that most speakers used to introduce their topic.

They say something like, “good morning”, “good afternoon”. “My name is” if they don’t know you. And then there is this typical sentence; “Today, I’m going to talk to you about…”

Now you might say, so what’s the problem? The problem with this sentence is that you’re actually answering the wrong question.

You’re answering the WHAT question.

Question: what are you going to do?

Answer: I’m going to talk about…

If you think about it, most audiences know what you’re going to talk about, either you are introduced, or there is a program, or there is a meeting, or there is an agenda, so people know what your topic is all about.

The most interesting question to answer is the why question. Why are you there to talk about this topic? And even more important, why is it important for the audience to listen to you?

So my advice for you is to focus on the why question. Now, how can you do that? I advise people to focus on a story to begin their presentation. Now, if you think about stories, stories, begin with a timeframe.

Just look at fairy tales, they start with once upon a time, I’m not going to suggest that you start your professional presentation with once upon a time, but you can start with a timeframe, something like “yesterday”, “two weeks ago”, “last year”, “three months ago”.

Now, what’s the kind of story that you can share? Use real stories, it has to be something that happened to you, or it could be something that you heard.

So you can refer to a conversation you had with a colleague, you can say something like “yesterday I had a conversation with”, but then there has to be a reason why you refer to that conversation.

And there is this linking sentence that I use in lots of presentations, I tell my story, and that I continue saying “Now why do I tell you this?”

Answer: “Because my objective or my goal with this presentation is to…”

So what you can do is be very conscious of the company’s stories, I might say. It can be something that happened with a customer, it can be an article you read, it can be something that you heard about, it can be a conversation you had.

So use these stories to begin your presentation, link them to your goal, and it will be so much more interesting for your audience because it will be crystal clear for them from the very first minute why it is important to them. So next time you prepare your presentation, focus on that why question and tell them a story.