How to Grab Your Audience in the First Two Minutes of Your Presentation


“You are an unknown quantity for only 120 seconds. After that, everything you say will be heard in the context of the impression of the first two minutes,” says David Peoples, Presentations Plus.

The window is short for convincing an audience that what you have to say is worth listening to. So you need to start strong. Skip the pleasantries. You need something that grabs their attention is short and pertinent to your subject.

Keep these 5 key things in mind to show respect and build rapport with your audience:

  1. Partner with the audience
  2. Demonstrate you respect their time
  3. Show you’re prepared
  4. Connect common ideas and empathize with your audience
  5. Increase eye contact


To get started, immediately grab the audience’s attention and run with it.

  • Use emotional anchors to hook their attention
  • Add an attention-grabber such as WIIFM or a key benefit
  • Choose the appropriate opener:

Current event (could be obscure). “Did anyone hear about this? … a 2-year-old got a tickets last week for littering ….” Tie the event to your topic. People like to know what’s happening in the news.  

Humorous. Poking fun at yourself works really well, suggests Be sure your humor has a point, so if no one laughs, the audience will see the connection anyway, suggests If the audience does laugh, wait until the laughter dies down to begin speaking.

Anecdotal. Tell a very short story that brings your subject to life. It should include a lesson and be kind, suggests You can also leave the conclusion for the end of your presentation.

Important statistic. “Ivory-seeking poachers have killed 100,000 African elephants in just three years.”

Pertinent quote (or add a twist). “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”—Samuel Beckett. This quote might work well on its own if it relates to what you’re talking about, but if it doesn’t, give it a twist—maybe ask if it’s really possible to “fail better” or use it another way that leads into your topic or gets your audience to engage.

— Contrarian. “The early bird gets the worm.” “Does he? Sometimes being first doesn’t work to your advantage.” Then give an example of when it didn’t work.

— Rhetorical questions in a string. “Why is it that we just can’t get out of bed each morning?” “When that alarm rings, why don’t we just leap out of bed? Is it because we aren’t anxious to get our days started?” You could also begin with “What if ….” These kinds of questions get your audience’s minds moving.

— Questions that include raising your hand. Be sure to ask questions that are positive and that most people will raise their hands to, suggests This helps get your audience involved.


And finally, here are the 5 things you can do to kill your first impression:

  1. Start late
  2. Open with an apology
  3. Tell an unrelated or inappropriate anecdote
  4. Take too long to build momentum and energy
  5. Be unprepared for technical difficulties or equipment failure

Set the stage for your presentation with the right opening remarks. Grab your listeners’ attention and get them engaged and thinking immediately.


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