How many presentations have you watched that start with “Hello, my name is ….and today I’m going to talk to you about…..”.

Often delivered in a monotone and accompanied with some throat-clearing, fidgeting, and some ums and ahs for good measure.

You have a matter of seconds to hook your audience. In that first minute, you need to excite them enough to tune in. You cannot waste this golden opening moment with pedestrian, mundane words.

Here’s what you can replace the opening with:

1. Shocking Statistics

Surprise me with a statistic related to your subject, designed to back up your key message.

In 2010, Jamie Oliver gave a TED talk entitled “Teach Every Child About Food”. This was his opening line:

“Sadly, in the next 18 minutes when I do our chat, four Americans who are alive, will be dead through the food that they eat.”

This shocking statistic immediately captivates us. It makes us want to learn how it can be true, and what we can do to change it.

We’re in. From the very first sentence.

2. Tell me a Story

Storytelling is our most powerful device, and the best way of drawing in our audience and connecting with them on a human level. We are programmed, from birth, to engage with stories, and we feel comfortable communicating on this level.

Stories can be personal – spend your first couple of minutes telling me how your product or idea has changed your life. Or they can be someone else’s personal story – give me a character I can identify with and learn from.

Or they can be about a historic event, a fable, even an anecdote.

Use your opening moment to draw me in with a conventional story-pattern: a beginning, a middle and an ending. A problem-solution. A hero and a villain. And ultimately, a ‘happy ever after’ because of YOUR idea.

3. Ask me a Question

If you ask me a rhetorical question, you’re guiding me how to think.

“Do you want to live more sustainably, but feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problems our planet faces?”

Most people would answer “yes”. And then feel encouraged that you’re about to teach them how to start. You’ve hooked them in and they’re already keen to learn from you. Far more motivating than, “Hello, my name is Anna, and today I’m going to talk to you about sustainability in the home”.

Rhetorical questions also give your presentation an active opening: rather than saying, “cloud-based accounting will benefit your business”, ask your audience “How can cloud-based accounting benefit your business?”. This subtle difference invites a more engaged participation from your listeners.

“Would your company benefit from a more streamlined billing system?”

Well, yes, of course.

By asking me a question designed to align me with your message, our brains are already synching, and my subconscious is telling me we think alike; you’re going to have my best interests at the centre of your proposal, and I’m better off coming with you on your journey.

4. Use a powerful visual

Visuals are more memorable than words alone. If you illustrate your point with an image or a video, your audience is much more likely to relate to what you’re telling them, and to remember it. When they refer back to your pitch or presentation, they will visualise your image in their mind.

And it is far, far easier to create an emotional response to an image than to bullet points and graphs.

Likewise, if you use a prop, you’ll not only give your audience a visual anchor to refer back to, but you’ll also help them to remember you, and your points. This is because you’re shaking up the narrative: not many people are brave enough to challenge the recognised presentation style, and by disrupting the norm you’ll make yourself, and your key message, memorable. 

5. Quote someone else!

There’s no getting away from the fact that some of us are better with words than others. If you’re not a natural wordsmith, start your presentation with a bang by quoting someone who knows how to arrest with their words.

There are endless famous quotes you can use. In fact, the quote itself doesn’t need to be famous – a quick google will throw up loads of lesser-known quotes by Steve Jobs; Michelle Obama; Muhammed Ali, but they’re still worthy of quotation because of who said them.

Even better if you accompany the quote with an image – of the person, or an inspiring visual which paints the picture they’re describing.

The rule is: you must credit the person you’re quoting, and it must be connected to your message.

Want to know how I can help you structure and deliver a brilliant presentation? Click here.