Start your presentation at work with a question.
I’m a public-speaking expert, and I’ve trained many executives and senior teams.I tell all of them to stop starting work presentations with a salutation or a “hello.”Instead, you should engage your audience by telling a story or asking a question.
I’m sure you’ve sat through plenty of presentations where the presenter starts with a polite salutation like, “Hello, thank you for having me here today,” or, “I am so glad to be here” — often followed by their name and professional résumé. Sometimes, if it’s an internal meeting, you get the same salutations followed by an agenda slide with bullet points and the presenter narrating it.
As a public-speaking coach who has worked with many executives and senior teams, I know how to make work presentations more engaging. Here’s how you should change your approach.
If you stick to your old ways, you aren’t leaving a memorable first impression
Your audience is thinking three things when you walk into that conference room or onto that stage: Who is this person, why should I care, and how are they going to solve my problem?
Let’s face it: Most people are more interested in how you will solve their problem than in you and your professional résumé. So let’s flip the script a bit. Start with the solution to their problem, briefly talk about yourself for credibility, and then give them a reason to care.
Instead, try to capture their attention
Begin your presentation with a hook or a story — something that grabs their attention right from the start. For instance, your hook might be, “Did you know this?” or “What if that?” It could also be a short story that humanizes your services or products.
Most presentations are predictable; wouldn’t it be better for both your time and your audience if you could introduce an element of surprise?
Some might feel it rude not to thank the organizer or greet the audience, so I suggest finding another place in your presentation for this. Here’s a good structure:
Intro: “What if you could be a more confident and credible presenter? What if you could engage with your audience so they remember your products or services?”
Credibility: “My name is Meridith, and I’ve been coaching entrepreneurs and executives on how to speak with spark for over a decade, and I am really excited to be here. I want to thank [insert name] for inviting me to share the afternoon with you.”
Solution: “Today, I will give you three ways to make your audience remember your products and services, helping you stand out in a competitive market. Let’s get this party started!”
You could also try to form a personal connection
Often, presentations lack a personal touch. Try sharing a relevant personal anecdote or experience that relates to your topic. This not only makes your work presentation more relatable but also helps to establish a deeper connection with your audience.
For example, you could say: “When I was younger, I often hid in the back of the classroom, hoping the teacher wouldn’t call on me because I didn’t want to sound stupid or have the wrong answer. Later in life, I discovered acting and improv comedy. It was through the practice of these two art forms that I developed my confidence and learned how to engage more courageously with others. Today, I will give you solutions for how you can also better engage your audience with spark.”
Try to encourage interaction
At the very least, you should try to engage your audience from the beginning — whether in person or on virtual calls. You can ask a thought-provoking question or propose a challenge that involves them directly. This approach shifts the dynamic to more interactive and engaging sessions.
If you implement any of these suggestions, you can make your presentation memorable and impactful immediately. And you’ll most likely get a larger return on your investment of time and energy.
In today’s fast-paced world, where attention spans are increasingly shorter than ever, it’s crucial to grab and hold your audience’s attention from the very beginning. By doing so, you set the stage for a more engaging and productive interaction. So challenge yourself to break free from presentation norms and embrace a style that resonates deeply with your audience and leaves a lasting impression.