5 Tips to Engage Your Audience from the Start of Your Presentation

Many of my clients mention that they would like to engage their audience from the beginning of their presentation. Indeed, when I started out, I wanted the same thing but didn’t know what to do.

These 5 tips will help you engage and connect with your audience right from the start of your presentation.

1. Get your audience’s attention

When you start your presentation, you need to get your audience’s attention. If you don’t do that in the first minute, you’ll have lost them to chatting on Facebook, making a list of groceries to pick up, or even nodding off altogether. To get their attention, you need to keep several things in mind. Whatever you use must be
• unexpected
• emotional
• personal to the audience members – what’s in it for them?
• relevant to the subject of your presentation
• proportionate to the scale of the task (if audience doesn’t know you and/or resistant to your message, take more time)
• negative

2. Don’t start with an outline of your presentation (that comes later)

While it is important to let your audience know what your presentation is about, that is not the best place to start. Starting with an outline will not get the audience’s attention. Outlines are rarely emotional or negative

3. Don’t start with facts (those also come later)

In an informative presentation, it is critically important to share the facts that your audience are there to learn. That does not mean that you should start with the facts. Facts are not emotional or personal or negative. They are just facts. If you share the facts at the right time, your audience will be engaged and interested in learning. If you start with facts, you’ll have lost them from the very beginning.

4. Don’t tell a joke (unless you’ve been told you are incredibly funny)

Sometimes people are told to start with a joke. They search on Google for a joke relating to their topic and start with the joke they found. That rarely works.

There are a few problems with telling a joke, particularly at the beginning.

First, unless the joke is tied directly to the purpose of the presentation, it may be hard to shift attention back to the presentation’s purpose. Second, the joke must be funny to the audience members. If you tell a joke that your audience finds offensive, they will tune you out immediately and it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get them back. Third, a joke you find on Google may be so well-known, so cliched, as to not actually get the audience’s attention.

5. Start with a challenging story that relates

One of the best ways to start a presentation, and engage your audience right away, is to tell a challenging story. A challenging story is negative and has a pain point in it. The story you start with must relate to the purpose of your presentation. An unrelated story distracts from your presentation. Your audience will likely remember your story but not the facts you are sharing. With a related story, they will remember both.

With this story, you want to engage your audience’s emotions. If they have experienced a similar situation, they will be feeling the same emotions as they felt then. Stories actually release hormones in the brain of the listener that increase focus as well as trust and connection.

To learn more about starting with a challenging story, check out my blog post entitled “What is a challenging story and why you need one to start your presentation?”

I hope you are able to engage your audience from the start of your next presentation. Remember to Get Their Attention and Start with a Challenging Story rather than starting with an outline, with facts, or with a joke.

Some of my clients find they need help crafting a challenging story that is relevant. If you need help with engaging your audience from the start, book a free 45-minute AMP UP Session to Assess the Memorability of your Presentations. https://calendly.com/brenda-memorablepresenter/45min-amp_up