How to really begin your presentation – so that it engages right from the get-go

Frankie Kemp

29 September 2019

When most people think they’re beginning their presentation, they’re not.

They’re actually mumbling their way into it, with a name, sometimes a role and, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear what they’re actually going to talk about.

What you’ll almost NEVER hear is WHY the heck you should be listening to their monologue.

And who knows whether you’re permitted to ask questions?  You’ll just have to keep quiet or see what reception you get when you cut in with query.

There’s so much flaming guess work: that’s if you could be bothered to guess.

Usually, we just sit in blind acceptance and are quite pleased with ourselves when we’ve discovered why we’re there and what we’re listening to.

So before you begin any workshop, meeting or presentation, you want to take that kind of guess work out of the equation.

You need to set the tone and expectations, in addition to working up some sense of interest and anticipation in your audience.  Here’s how to do it.

Here’s the format I’ll be using: A, B, C, D



Or, as I call them, ‘Spices’ (but there’s an acronym to preserve here):

If you’ve attended my Presentations or workshops, you’ll know that spices are my one-pager, accrued from a plethora of books on presenting.  They are the 13 devices for engaging your audience.  The easiest to apply are these are:

  1. A question
  2. A picture / visual aid
  3. Ask the audience to do something e.g. “Think about”; “Tell me one advantage of …..” “Stand up if…”



Here, you’ll tell your audience what’s in it for them.  Examples could be:

  1. To save money
  2. Make your life easier
  3. Increase efficiency

If you have a combination of interests in your audience, you may have more than one benefit.  Say, you have Legal who’ll be interested in ‘avoiding trouble’ and with Business Development, who’ll be more focused on ‘finding opportunities’.

To find your audience WIIFM, use this to help you



Why are you the person to talk about this?  Now, if your financial framework is based on experience in successful start-ups and conglomerates over 15 years, that’s all you need to say.

If you’re talking about resilience and change with a background in the military that lad you into a launching a successful health tracking app, it’s worth mentioning.

Whatever your credibility is, you only need a sentence or two to back it.  You don’t need to keep on hitting it on the head.  Your knowledge, quality and delivery style will add to your kudos.

Any anecdotes you use, will implicitly inform your experience.



Tell your audience what you’ll cover.  There’s no need to go into details.  Think in terms of ‘sub-headings’.  For example, if you’re talking about the new legal framework behind a payments system, the direction may look like this:

“I’ll be talking about:

  1. What criteria you need to be aware of when accepting payments
  2. How this impacts on the technology we have in place
  3. Some grey areas you’ll come across and how to deal with them.”


I’ve also added 3 other areas that you need to mention:


1. the duration of the session / talk;

this helps your audience to manage their expectations.

2. whether there are any questions:

a common complaint amongst those presenting, especially to senior management, is that they get easily side-tracked by the questions.  If you set ground rules around this at the beginning, you’ll diminish the likelihood of this happening.

This could look like this:

“I’ll be speaking for 10 minutes, after which feel free to ask me any questions.  I want to address them so please write them down so I can deal with them.”


3. A caveat:

this is especially important if you have an audience who doesn’t know each other.

For instance, if you’re in a conference and you have software engineers present with those in marketing, the engineers may wonder why you’re talking about a CRM system, whereas the marketeers might be confused by all the references to standardisation of algorithms.  So you don’t lose your audience, you’d state, within the introduction:

“I know we have those here whose concern is more about marketing, as well as technical specialists.  So, I’ll be covering how this innovation will impact on both parties.”

This means you won’t lose either audience when you cover an aspect that’s not necessarily relevant to them.


So to recap:

  1. Attention
  2. Benefits
  3. Credential
  4. Direction


  1. Duration of session
  2. Ask Questions?
  3. Caveat


That’s a D.A.C, if an acronym will help…


Your Action:

  1. Write down a meeting, workshop or presentation you’re leading in the coming weeks.
  2. Jot down your
    1. A.B.C.D.
    2. D.A.C.

(a couple of words for each will do)



Leave a Comment.

Please note that for privacy reasons your email address is not publicly displayed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share This: