Section 5.1

Introduction of a Presentation

An introduction should not only establish your talk’s main theme or themes, but also pique the audience’s interest, drawing them into your talk and making them want to hear what comes next.

To achieve these goals, try touching immediately on one of the most engaging aspects of your message. Don’t make the audience wait to feel glad that they are listening to you. If you fail to engross them at the beginning of your talk, you may find it difficult to hold their attention as you proceed.

There are innumerable ways to craft an effective introduction. When writing your opening, consider not only the character of your audience, but also your own personality. What style suits you best?

You could start with a relevant anecdote. Stories can provide a wealth of engaging details to help capture listeners’ attention. The story form has captivated audiences since the dawn of human communication.

Beginning with a question can also draw listeners into your talk. However, if your question is not rhetorical — that is, if it calls for an answer — you should either be sure of the response you will get or be prepared to use to your advantage any answer or even silence from the audience.

Yet another way to start is by citing a striking statistic or fact. Such a beginning can give the audience an immediate and specific idea of the nature of the topic and dramatically illustrate why it is important.

If you are naturally funny and the subject matter lends itself to humor, you might use humor to introduce your message. But you don’t have to be funny to be effective. Forced humor can put the audience off and make you uneasy. (You need not be concerned that a more serious approach will be boring; many of history’s most inspiring speeches were extremely serious in both tone and content.)