Have a memorable opening

First impressions aren’t just important on dates and job interviews.

Newspaper stories start with their most important information.  Action movies start with lots of explosion.  And your presentations need to start with something that is going to grab your audience’s attention.  Far too many presenters save the most interesting parts of their talks for their conclusions.  But presentations aren’t mystery novels and, if you save your best material for the end, you’re likely to have lost your audience along the way and find it impossible to recover.

So tell them an interesting story at the beginning, share something personal about yourself or surprise them with an unexpected fact.  Audiences appreciate being entertained and engaging them early in your talk will greatly increase their chances of sticking with you.  This doesn’t mean you should tell a random joke, though, especially if you’re not good at telling jokes.  Jokes require accuracy to work and are likely to be fumbled by nervous presenters trying to be funny.  And any joke or story you tell has to be relevant and sincere; otherwise your audience may think you’re wasting their time or, worse, being dishonest with them.

One strategy to consider–  lead with what you would normally consider your conclusion.  It’s a great way to grab your audience’s attention and can often help you cut through a lot of the “filler” that clutters presentations.

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