Presentation Tips

Nailing the First Impression: How to Start a Presentation No Matter the Topic

Jordan Turner
February 19, 2021
 min read
Nailing the First Impression: How to Start a Presentation No Matter the TopicNailing the First Impression: How to Start a Presentation No Matter the Topic
Table of Contents

Everyone knows that first impressions are important— regardless of whether you’re an entrepreneur or a teacher. You have approximately 27 seconds to make a lasting first impression. Only 27 seconds. That’s how long it takes someone to form an opinion about you upon meeting you for the first time. In fact, a 2018 study conducted by the Dollar Shave Club revealed that 69% of Americans form a first impression of somebody before they even open their mouth to speak. A lot of those initial snap judgements come from body language, facial expressions, and eye contact.

What does that mean for your presentations? A 2017 University of Toronto study found that an audience can decide in as little as five seconds if a presenter is charismatic or not simply by watching a silent recording of them delivering their speech. While a lot of first impressions come from things we can’t control, you can change the narrative. What is the absolute first thing you want your audience to experience? How do you want them to feel? How can you get them to trust you and what you’re about to tell them? Let’s start there.

Below are examples of how to start a presentation— and win over your audience in the first few seconds— regardless of the topic.

Nailing the first impression

The first few seconds of your presentation are crucial to the success of your call-to-action at the end. You want to make sure you’re professional, personable, and presentable. Here’s how:

Dress the part

Have you ever heard the saying dress for the job you want? It applies here, too. You want to wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident, while looking professional. It’s one of the first things that your audience will notice.

Check your body language

Check your posture when you’re on stage. Choose a power stance that both calms your nerves and exudes confidence. Do you talk with your hands? Make sure your body language isn’t distracting the audience from your overarching message. 

Make eye contact

Eye contact can make or break your first impression. By making eye contact you’re letting the audience know that you see them, you hear them, and that they can trust you. 


A smile goes a long way. Not only does it tell the audience that you’re genuine, but it humanizes you while up on stage. Suddenly you’re more relatable (and likeable). A simple smile will show your audience that you care about them, and that you’re passionate about the topic you’re presenting. 

Knock their socks off with your introduction

The first words you speak set the tone for the rest of your presentation, so choose wisely. Try opening with a joke, a startling statistic, or a personal (but relatable) story to grab their attention early on. 

Start with a bang

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s narrow it down to how to start off specific types of presentations. 

How to start an internal presentation

When you’re presenting internally, your audience likely already knows you and the company— so here’s how to start a marketing plan presentation, an all-hands meeting, or a team standup. Since these are your colleagues and peers, grab their attention with a joke before going into your key message. This will lighten the mood, and allow them to shift their focus to the meeting they may (or may not) have been dreading.  

How to start a client-facing presentation

When you’re preparing a client-facing deck, you probably have a specific call-to-action that will measure the success of your presentation. Regardless of whether you want their business, their feedback, or their investment, you need their attention. We recommend kicking off a client-facing, or sales, presentation with a startling statistic that will pique their curiosity and leave them wanting more information throughout the rest of your deck.  

How to start a technical presentation

A technical presentation— like software integration— sounds boring, right? Make it relatable (and less technical) by starting the presentation with a personal story about you. That could be a lesson you learned, a life-altering experience, or a funny memory. Once you have the audience hooked, tie that story back to your presentation topic. This humanizes an otherwise boring presentation, and allows the audience to connect with you and what you’re saying. 

How to start a presentation about yourself 

The age-old question: how to start a presentation about yourself without coming across as egotistic? This might be a presentation to introduce yourself to colleagues your first week at a new job, a class project, or a personal portfolio or resume. Try starting a presentation about yourself with a candid video, or a photo. By sharing a personal visual asset, you’re tapping into the audience’s emotions and forcing their attention to the screen.

How to start a presentation in class

If you're presenting to your students, you already know that grabbing their attention will be a challenge in and of itself. Here’s how to start a presentation in class: inspire them. Students are typically more impressionable than other audiences may be, so hit them with an inspiring quote at the beginning of the presentation that will motivate them to pay attention. 

Jordan Turner

Jordan Turner

Jordan is a Bay Area writer, social media manager, and content strategist.