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The Best Way to Begin an Engaging Presentation

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.”

Total buzzkill!

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.

  • Make a definitive statement "For 20 years, I’ve spent most of my days supporting natural habitats. And they were all worthwhile."
  • Ask a question. "What do we all have in common? People who are committed to nature—preserving it, restoring it, protecting it."
  • Stir the emotions. "Clearly, I'm not the only person here tonight who loves wildlife."

Wrap Up

 Connecting with your audience from the beginning of your presentation is vital. How you begin is directly connected to how engaged your audience will be. As well as how receptive they are of your message. While this may seem daunting, using a definitive statement, asking a question, or stirring emotions are good strategies.

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About the author 


Jennifer has 15+ years of public speaking experience - ranging from groups of 5 to 5000. She draws from her experience as an instructor, academic, and librarian to help others with their presentation skills. When not presenting she loves creating and designing online courses, video, images, slide decks, handouts, conference posters, and infographics.

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