The first few minutes of your presentation are very important – when you have the opportunity to make a good first impression and capture the audience’s attention. In those crucial few minutes, they will decide whether what you have to say is worth listening to, which will greatly impact their decision whether or not to be influenced, convinced, or informed by you.
Here are 4 ways NOT to start your presentation, whether it’s virtual or in-person:
1. With Ums, Ahs and a Whimper
“Um, thanks for having me here at this, uh, meeting. It’s, uh, a great, um, opportunity for me to tell you, uh, about the project, which is, ah, almost complete. And, uh, I guess I, um, will just start by, uh, telling you a little bit, um, about, uh, what we’ve been doing….”
Don’t waste precious time at the start of your presentation meandering into your topic and over- using ums, ahs and pause words. You’ll bore the audience and come across as less than confident. Instead, jump right into your content with a strong, enthusiastic, attention-getting opening that engages the audience immediately. Practice delivering it with confidence and a minimum of distracting pause words.
2. Doing a Sound Check
“Can you hear me ok?”
While it’s crucial to ensure that the audience can hear you, the start of your presentation is not the time to do it. If you’re truly concerned about voice volume, practice in the room before your presentation and have someone stand at the back of the room to determine if they can hear you. If needed, use a microphone (and practice using it).
If you’re still worried about your volume, have someone stand at the back of the room and give you a signal at the start of your presentation to let you know if you can be heard easily.
And if it’s a virtual presentation, do a sound check with the meeting host or a colleague a few minutes before everyone else joins.
(By the way, the question, “can you hear me?” is not logical. If people can’t hear you at all, they can’t hear you ask, “can you hear me?”)
“I didn’t get a chance to finish preparing this presentation…”
Prepare your presentation ahead of time. Don’t insult your audience by showing up with a half-baked presentation that you threw together that morning. It hardly inspires the type of confidence in you that will encourage them listen to you and be influenced by what you say.
And even if for some unexpected reason, you didn’t have time to finish preparing the presentation, don’t advertise your lack of preparation or start or with a list of excuses about being too busy to prepare.
4. Boring the Audience
“I know this topic is not as exciting as some other topics, so I’ll try my best not to put you to sleep.”
Even if you don’t come right out and make this statement, your lackluster body language, monotone voice and lack of eye contact will broadcast it loud and clear to the audience. If you can’t muster up enough enthusiasm about your topic to start on a positive and energetic note, there’s no hope that you can engage the audience.
Remember, a presentation is a means to communicate information to the audience about your topic and about you. Prepare and practice a captivating and energetic opening to make a good first impression and increase the likelihood that people will pay attention and remember you and your message.