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Why the start and end matters

A recent study found that the average attention span is 8 seconds – down from 12 seconds back in 2000 [Source].

Unfortunately, this means we really must work hard to keep the attention of others. We have never been more saturated by noise and distraction.

And this has implications for presenting.

The (hard) truth is that in a 20-minute presentation you run, your audience will probably be at least 50% checked out for the majority of it.

Perhaps they are multi-tasking on email (a unfortunate downfall if your presentation is virtual) or pondering what to have for lunch. Chances are you won’t have the undivided attention of your audience throughout – no matter how great at presenting you are!

So what does this mean?

Your audience is most likely to be engaged at the start of your presentation (who is this person speaking to me now?) and at the end of your presentation (what last remarks is this person going to leave me with?)

That means you need to really focus on these golden parts when it’s likely you’ll have (most of) your audience’s attention.

Here we explore some areas of consideration for the start and the end.

  • START with a bang. A very traditional way most presentations begin is “Hi everyone, my name is”. How can you be different? Beginning with a bold statement, fact or question is likely to draw your audience in.

  • START with showing your personal self. You are presenting to humans not robots. Bringing in a personal or emotive element is more likely to make your audience resonate with you. The level of this, however, will depend on your context. An audit pitch vs a best man speech will have varying levels of this.

  • START with a story. Stories help connect with others. They have been around since caveman eras (albeit in hyalographic form). Draw your audience in by beginning with an anecdote of some kind.

  • END by returning to the start. It sounds counterintuitive, but incorporating the “circular effect” will allow you to neatly tie your presentation together and is a powerful technique in presenting.

  • END with an ask. What do you want your audience to do off the back of your presentation? Prompt a call to action or leave them with an ask, even if it’s to reflect on the topic you have discussed in a certain way.

These are just some techniques for the start and end of your presentation.

However, depending on the context and the purpose of your speech, there are other tips to consider.

Book a session to work together on your specific speech today.


HelpMePresent is the tutoring of presenting. We offer flexible, accessible sessions that can be easily booked. Drop us a line or click here to book now.

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