How to Start a Presentation (With Steps and Strategies)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 1 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An employer might ask you to create a presentation to present a complex topic more clearly. For example, you may present a quarterly sales report to your manager, propose a new business plan to your team or introduce a new product to your clients. Knowing how to start a presentation effectively can help you capture and hold your audience's attention. In this article, we cover how to start a presentation, explain a few key communication skills and give you some useful strategies to help you keep your audience engaged.

How to start a presentation

Learning how to start a presentation can help you engage your audience. The introduction is the most crucial part of your presentation because it helps set the tone for the rest of your presentation. If you can design an engaging introduction, you can immediately capture your audience's attention and encourage them to pay attention during your entire presentation. Here are some strategies you can use to start your presentation:

1. Ask questions

Many presenters start their presentation by asking questions to the audience as a warm-up. You may ask your audience imaginative questions, such as "what if you're facing this situation?", to encourage them to use their imagination to visualise the question. This technique can evoke an audience's emotions and create resonance. Asking adequate and theme-related questions can also make the theme of your presentation clearer. Here are some examples of good introduction questions:

  • What if you can increase your customer base without increasing your marketing budget?

  • What if you can improve customer loyalty in one simple step?

2. Tell a story

One of the useful ways to start your presentation is to tell a story. It helps you lead your audience on a journey and appeal to their emotions. Try to keep your stories short so that your audience can easily understand your message. You can achieve this by removing unnecessary details when presenting stories. Good stories evoke imagination and build anticipation. If you're able to use stories correctly, you can emotionally connect with your audience. When you're using stories in your presentation, remember to select and tailor them to fit the context and theme of your presentation.

3. Introduce yourself

The audiences enjoy hearing stories, especially when the story is directly about you. Thus, you may consider introducing yourself at the beginning of your presentation. Instead of simply telling them your name and occupation, you can make it more friendly and personal. Treat your audience as your friends and establish a rapport with them. The more resonance approachable you appear, the more likely they're going to enjoy the presentation.

Read more: 8 Easy Steps on How to Introduce Yourself in an Email

4. State a fact or statistic

You can begin your presentation by sharing astonishing facts or statistics that matter to your audience. For example, you can quote statistics such as, "In this meeting room, more than 80% of us have had trouble with the sound system." You may also combine the statistics to your leading question and invite your audiences to brainstorm answers. When using this technique, ensure that you're using correct and straightforward figures. You may also apply the technique throughout your presentation.

5. Point out problems and opportunities

Start your presentation by pointing out the problem to gain your audience's attention. For example, you might ask, "Have you found it difficult to expand our customer base even after spending lots of money on TV advertisements?" Clearly stating the problems and opportunities allows you to make the theme of your presentation evident. It entices your audience to want to know more about your solutions to resolve the issues.

6. Use relevant quotes

Using relevant quotes to start your presentation can make your message more trustworthy. If the quotes you selected are well-known or from famous people, they can even inspire your audience. It can show that you have done a lot of research before presenting your ideas. If you want to implement this strategy, you can place a quote on the first slide of your presentation.

Essential presentation skills

Here's a list of essential presentation skills for professionals:

Confidence

Confident presenters may be more credible. When you present a presentation, try to relax and be more confident. You can portray confidence by making adequate eye contact, facing your audience as you speak and inviting them to answer your questions throughout the presentation.

Clarity and volume

Your tone of voice and presentation pace can influence your presentation. Use an appropriate volume when speaking and ensure that everyone in the room can receive your message. Speaking at a moderate pace can also help you articular your ideas and keep the audience focused during your presentation.

Body language and facial expression

While your verbal language communicates the content of your presentation, your body language can determine how your audience interprets your speech and their impression of you. You can use more appropriate gestures to deepen your message. When you're presenting, remember to stand up straight to show your confidence. Also, keep a welcome smile on your face so that your audience can see you as a friendly and trustworthy person.

Communication skills

When you're presenting, it's important to convey your ideas to the audience clearly. Good presenters know how to make complex ideas simple. Sometimes, you may give a presentation to an audience who's not so informed about a topic. For example, when you're presenting the initial design of a software to a client, they may not know the technical terms in your field. Simplify your presentation and use more straightforward language to avoid confusing your audience.

Read more: Top 15 Presentation Skills and How to Improve Them

Four steps to prepare a presentation

Here are four steps you can follow to prepare your presentation:

1. Set clear objectives for your presentation

The first thing to do when you start preparing your presentation is to determine the objectives of your presentation. Having clear and meaningful objectives can help you stay focused when researching and structuring your presentation. You can consider these questions when you're brainstorming the goals of your presentation:

  • What's the key message of this topic?

  • Am I teaching or reporting something?

  • What do I want my audience to know?

  • Am I giving suggestions or helping my audience to make a decision?

2. Study your target audiences

After you've determined the goals of your presentation, you can spend some time knowing more about your target audience. Think about their background, aims and values so that you can understand what they may expect from your presentation. You can also think about if they already have information or knowledge of the topic that you're going to present. Avoid spending so much time telling them what they've already known. Analysing your target audience also helps you determine your presentation's tone and style. For example, if you're presenting in front of your supervisors, your tone may be more formal than presenting to your team.

3. Prepare the content of your presentation

After doing the above steps, you can start preparing the content of your presentation. First, draft an outline for your presentation and research suitable information to support your theme. When you're preparing your content, pay attention to the timing of your presentation. After finalising your draft, you can design subsequent visual aids to complement your presentation. For example, you can include relevant videos or colourful charts. Consider writing a speaker note to assist you on the day of your presentation.

Read more: Research Skills: Definition, Benefits and How to Develop

4. Practise with a friend

Practising before you deliver your presentation can ensure that you can deliver a smooth presentation. When you're practising, pay attention to the following:

  • Pace: Are you speaking too fast or too slow? Can your audience hear what you said clearly?

  • Time: Are you able to finish your presentation within the given time?

  • Coherency: Are the content of your presentation well-organised? Can your audience follow it easily?

  • Voice: Is your voice too soft? Can the audience hear it from a distance?

  • Effectiveness: Does your presentation achieve the goals you set?

  • Eye contact: Do you make eye contact with your audience regularly?

You can invite a friend to practise with you and give you feedback based on the questions above. Ask them to sit a bit further away from you to check your voice. Rehearse by yourself by recording your presentation on the phone. Play the video and ask yourself the questions above. Make adjustments to the material and your presentation style if necessary.

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