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Slide Two: How to Begin Your Presentation

kid-superhero-257x200How many milliseconds does it take for the human eye to glaze over? For the audience members of most business presentations, I would venture to guess: in the time it takes to read the word “Agenda.” The second slide for most business presentations, after the title slide, is an agenda slide in which the speaker leans heavily on the old saw “tell’em what you’re going to tell’em…blah, blah, blah.” And so it begins, the speaker drones on—the audience’s attention drifts.

Lose the Agenda…Tell a Story

To effectively begin your presentation you need two things: a story and a powerful image. Whether you want to grab your audience by the lapels or the heart strings, the best way to begin your presentation is tell them a story—and not just any story. The audience wants to hear a story involving something they care about. Tell them a love story about a loyal client’s success. Tell them a scary story about how the competition is dominating their market. Tell them a hero’s tale about how your company has beaten the odds and posted a record year.

In the Beginning there was… an Image

As you tell this story, the slide behind you should be a single powerful image chosen to evoke an emotional response. It should be one image and one idea—no collages or builds. The image should relate to the core idea in your presentation. The slide doesn’t need words, but a simple “mind-blowing” statistic can be an effective way to support your story. Using the examples above, you could show a photo of a customer standing in front of their business or a photo of a competitor’s location or product or a single bold number representing your company's market share.

Try it for your next presentation. With the right combination of storytelling and visuals, I guarantee the eyes of your audience won’t be glazed—they’ll contain a spark and you’ll have their attention.