University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies
English Language Program
Making a Presentation: Developing an Effective Introduction
The introduction to a presentation is especially important because listeners often decide in the first minute or two whether they want to pay attention to what you are going to say. The purpose of an introduction is to:
• attract your listeners' interest
• preview the content
Here are several strategies for attracting your audience's attention:
1. Relate your topic to your listeners' concerns. What goals, problems, or experiences do your listeners have in common? To get their attention, you might explain how you can help them achieve a goal, solve a problem or improve their lives. What about their wants and needs? You might explain how you can help them make new friends, save money, or get better grades.
2. Tell an story that relates to your topic. People seem to have a natural interest in hearing stories about people they know or have heard of.
3. Ask your listeners one or more questions. These questions will involve them and keep them interested in your presentations.
4. Use a quotation from an expert.
5. Offer an interesting or surprising fact, opinion, or statement.
Of course, your attention grabber must relate directly to your topic. In any case, try not to begin with, "The subject of my presentation is...," or "I'm going to talk to you about...," since these are not interesting ways to start a presentation.
After getting your listeners' attention, you need to state your topic clearly and to preview the order of the main ideas. This preview will prepare the listeners for your presentation and help them follow your method of organization. Previewing the content also helps your listeners understand and remember the information.
You should never use the introduction to apologize to the audience for anything -- for being nervous, for not being prepared, or for not being an expert on the topic. By taking a positive, confident approach from the beginning of your presentation, you will make the listeners eager to hear what you have to say.