The best way to begin an engaging presentation is to win your audience over with a great opening statement. Most of you have heard the saying that when you meet someone for the first time they make a judgement of you within the first 5 seconds. With a presentation you have a little bit longer but not much. The first words or sentences you utter really sets the tone for the rest of the speech.
Imagine you are attending an annual formal dinner event. This can be for a local non-profit, a company annual dinner, or even a sports-related event. Every year, at the event, the organization announces a lifetime achievement award. This a highly anticipated part of the dinner.
Image the person announcing the award gives a heartfelt introduction of the recipient. Highlighting the numerous good deeds and ways the award winner impacted their own life specifically. The atmosphere of the room is one of warm cheer and eager for an inspiring acceptance speech.
The award winner takes the podium. The first words out of their mouth is “Can you believe this weather? It is awful and a horrible night to go out.”
The audience was perfectly primed and open to hear an inspiring message. Those first words eliminated any chance for that to happen.
Now think of the presentations you give. How do you start? Is it strong and in alignment with your message? Or is it mediocre and unimpressive?
A-level speakers never begin their presentations talking about mundane things like the time, weather, food, or even the venue. If you want to thank those who cooked and served dinner or complement the venue, that is fine. Just don’t do it as part of your opening statement.
How to Know What to Say
When preparing your speech, you want to research information about the audience (e.g., 100 top executive salespeople and their spouses). It is important to be aware of the demographics (e.g., from all over the country; entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, etc.). Lastly, familiarize yourself with the venue (e.g., historical significance to the organization, community, or event).
Specifically referencing that information isn’t the best way to begin. What this material provides is context and what not say. For instance, if you are presenting to a group of college students, you don’t want to start your speech talking about how your three-year-old inspires you to be the best parent every day. While that is touching, most college students aren’t parents.
Good Types of Opening Remarks
There are many good ways to begin an engaging presentation. However, three types of opening remarks can be used in almost any speaking situation.