avoid these 7 mistakes at your presentation start

5 Common Presentation Mistakes in the First 30 Seconds

Reading Time: 6 minutes
| Author: Tom Becker

We’ve all heard the saying, “You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This also rings true for presentations, yet it’s surprising how speakers tend to overlook it. They spend most of their time preparing the topic but when all is said and done, they haven’t given one thought about how to introduce it to the audience.

A lot of people think an introduction is too time-consuming and it’s better just to go straight to the content. But if your content is dry to begin with, this could work against you.

Easing into your presentation with a well-thought-out introduction is the best way to get your audience’s attention and make sure they aren’t nodding off before you’ve finished your first point.

Why You Must Fill the First Few Seconds with Quality Content

 In today’s world, where the average human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish, the first 30 seconds are crucial. Capture your audience’s attention. Take the time to prepare and practice your introduction.

Avoid the pitfalls that often trip up others. If you fail to make a good impression in these initial 30 seconds, it will be challenging to regain the audience’s attention in the rest of your presentation.

Therefore, steer clear of the following 7 common mistakes we’ve frequently observed at the beginning of presentations.

7 Typical Mistakes at the Start of Presentations

1. The intro that never ends

The best way to lose your audience is to talk continuously without arriving to a point. We’ve all experienced this. You start talking, lose track of where you were going and try to get back on track with even more talking. The audience is no longer focused on your presentation but instead on when you’ll come up for air!

Try taking a different approach. Start with a single, bold statement related to your topic. It could reference a statistic. “In the next 5 seconds, Company A will have made another $3,000.” You could also begin with a famous quote or mention current events.

Any of these options could help you set a dramatic tone for your presentation. But remember, a little drama goes a long way.

2. “I’m sorry about…”

Never begin with an apology. It weakens your stance before you begin.

“I am sorry, I am getting over a cold, so my voice may be a little off.”
You come across as someone who gives excuses.

“I wanted to get copies of the status reports, but the printer…”
You’re just not prepared.

“I just found out about this presentation, so I didn’t have much time to prepare…”
Don’t seek pity.

Instead, take the focus off of you and start with a question. This provokes the audience to start thinking of a response. Make sure the question is specific, yet doesn’t require a simple yes or no answer.

Be careful not to insult the audience’s intelligence or make negative assumptions. “How many of you are already counting down to lunch?”

3. “Have you heard the one about…?”

Humor in a presentation is great, but starting off with a joke could cause you to lose standing with your audience. They’ll see right through the comedy if it’s being used to cover up the fact that you’re unprepared.

If you want to start off with a chuckle, try using an image, like a comic strip from a business magazine, which pertains to your topic. It will lighten up the mood so you can ease into your presentation.

You can find helpful tips on how to effectively use humor in the article “Humor in Presentations.”

4. Me, myself and I

Some speakers believe that boasting about themselves or their company is a good way to start a presentation, but they’d be wrong. This doesn’t mean you should never draw attention to yourself or your success. Telling a short anecdote from your past allows the audience to relate to you on a more personal level.

For example, “I used to have a hard time speaking in front of people, until one day…” or “When I first started working in this field, it was a struggle.”  

Your story should inspire, not alienate the audience.

5. Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3!

The worst way to begin a presentation is to check the sound equipment or deal with any technical issues. The sure signs of an amateur are when the speaker begins tapping on the microphone and asking the audience about the volume.

Do this before everyone gets there. Not checking equipment beforehand can be considered unprofessional. This way, you can also preemptively avoid the issue of poor audio quality. No one enjoys listening to presentations with distracting background noise.

Also, consider examining the rest of your equipment and technical aspects before the presentation. Problems with the projector connection or your presentation software are more than embarrassing; they consume time and leave an unprofessional impression.

6. Introduction? Not necessary…”

Some may even think that it’s more effective to skip the introduction altogether and dive straight into the content. However, if your presentation topic is sober and dry, this approach can backfire.

Especially with fact- or data-heavy content, it’s crucial to gently and thoughtfully introduce your audience to the presentation with an interesting and well-crafted introduction. Otherwise, it’s easy for the audience’s minds to drift away before you even get to fully explain your first point.

Additionally, it’s a missed opportunity not to introduce yourself or the topic adequately, as this reduces the chance of forming a personal connection with the audience.

7. Body language and speaking techniques are secondary.

Not only does the content of your opening matter, but also how you convey it. Often, speaking techniques and body language and their impact on presentations are underestimated.

Don’t speak too slowly. Overly long introductions can quickly make your audience impatient and diminish tension. Additionally, pay attention to your tone of voice. A monotone and uncertain tone can convey boredom and raise doubts about your expertise.

Similarly, consider using as little jargon as possible. Too many technical terms or abbreviations can exclude a broader audience and hinder the clarity of your message.

Start paying attention to your body language from the beginning. Stand upright and confidently to demonstrate your authority. Also, make an effort to establish eye contact actively. If you constantly look at your slides or notes and avoid eye contact with the audience, it can be interpreted as a lack of confidence or preparation.

You can find numerous tips on handling these topics in the articles “Body Language in Presentations” and “Speaking Techniques.”

Bonus Tip

If you struggle with nerves and need a little more time to gather your thoughts, try starting your presentation with a short video – no more than 30 seconds. The video should be relevant to your topic and set the tone for the rest of the presentation.

For more tips on how to approach your presentation with as much relaxation as possible, you can find additional advice in the article “Stage Fright Before Presentations.

Conclusion: Skillfully Utilize the First Few Seconds

If you realize that you’ve made one or more of the described mistakes, try to do better in your next presentations. Take our tips to heart, and you’ll see that you can make a strong impression right from the start.

If you have any questions about the article or PowerPoint presentations in general, please feel free to contact us at [email protected]. We’re here to assist you!

You can find professionally designed slide templates to enhance the impact of your presentation in our shop. Please take a look around; we offer numerous slides on various (business) topics. ► Visit the Shop

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