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100 tips for presentation mastery: How to open with impact

Tips for capturing attention at the start of your presentation
Tips for capturing attention at the start of your presentationMicrosoft Templates

This article is a continuation of a series offering 100 tips for delivering a masterful presentation that will leave them cheering for more.

Past articles have introduced the topic and discussed client expectations, persona, design, scripting, rehearsal, packing, and habits.

This article examines openings: tips for capturing attention at the start of your presentation.

Tip 23 – Arrive early

Most participants arrive on time or early. Although some arrive fashionably late, all participants expect you will be there and set up before they arrive. When you show up late, you disrespect your learners. If you are scrambling to set up when they arrive, you cannot focus on welcoming them. Also, any intensity or nervousness you feel because your set up is not yet complete will send a message of tension to your learners.

Tip 24 – Start on time

When you wait for stragglers to arrive before you begin, you dishonor those who arrived early. Participants will rarely say anything, but many resent the lack of timeliness the late arrivers represent. A good approach for accommodating both the early and late arrivers is to begin a content-related PowerPoint loop 30 minutes before start time, begin a content-related video 5 minutes before start time, and begin actual content around 5 minutes past start time. That way, the early arrivers get extra content and the late arrivers do not miss anything essential. Finally, if you cannot begin at the start time, announce the time and tell the learners when you will begin.

Tip 25 – Deliver an effective opening

In entertainment terms, the opening and closing segments are the most memorable. Your opening should attract attention, engage the participants, and provide a holistic view of the content to be delivered. Your history, the history of the program, and the objectives to be covered are not dynamic openers. Instead, make it enticing. Throw the participants into the subject to be learned in a surprising, unexpected way and use the debrief from that activity to naturally lead to introductions.

Tip 26 – Avoid saying, “ice breaker”.

The term “ice breaker” is the wrong metaphor for the opening activity. Instead of breaking the ice, we should be melting it. An opening activity is an excellent way to establish the tone, feel, and holistic view of the subject to be taught. Conversely, an introduction activity that has no link to the content to be learned is a waste of participant time. When the opening activity draws from what the participants already know about the subject, it sets the memorably stage for the content to follow. Conversely, when you say, "ice breaker," many participants, who are familiar with the term, see your ship sinking and their day being wasted with frivolous activities.

Tip 27 – Place the material to be covered within a context

Don’t introduce the content. Content without context is noise. In order for the material to matter to the learners, the subject must be placed within a context. If you dive right in to a subject area without placing the content within a framework the participants will understand, they will become confused and stop listening to you.

Tip 30 – Use clear objectives

Many programs begin with a listing of objectives identified by the organization or the presenter. These objectives do not, usually, matter to the learners. What matters to them is how these objectives will affect their lives. To help your learners connect to the objectives, avoid instructional speak. “Given a terminal objective, the participants will …” is proper instructional design. It is also terrible communication. Simplify your objectives. Put them in plain, easy to comprehend, language. Link the objectives to what will matter to your participants. Make the objectives so enticing that the participants will want to learn more.

What related tips do you have? Feel free to share.

In the next article of this series we will examine speech patterns to avoid as we offer 100 tips for delivering a masterful presentation that will leave them cheering for more.