Count to sixty. That's the most time you have to secure your audience's interest once you begin a presentation. If you don't grab it then, you may not grab it at all. To engage listeners quickly, infuse your introduction with creativity and energy. These methods will help you do so in that first minute.


Employ a short demonstration, an artifact, or some other visual: "What I've got here is a baseball bat. I used to practice with it. You can see on it the nicks and imprints of where I hit the ball. Hundreds of times, thousands, the bat and ball made contact right around here. Though I was trying, you can see that I sometimes missed what is called the 'sweet spot,' the area you need to use when you hit the ball. The sweet spot delivers on your power, your efficiency, your accuracy. This last quarter, ladies and gentlemen, we hit the sweet spot."


Begin with an unexpected fact or startling statistic pertinent to the message of your presentation: "As of 2008, less than two-thirds of adults over 50 in the United States had ever been screened for colorectal cancer. Here in Louisiana, the rate was even worse - only about 50%. This means that we have about a million adults with increased risk for suffering from a disease that is generally curable when diagnosed early."


Build a short narrative about some event in your life, the media, history, or a particular discipline: "I suppose I wanted lots of things when I was a kid. Maybe I wanted a certain toy or a new dress or an adorable puppy. I'm not sure. I only remember wanting one thing, and I wanted it so strongly and so much that my desire for it is still palpable. I wanted to learn to read. With every ounce and iota of my being, I wanted to learn to read."


Structure the introduction around a quotation that parallels, contradicts, or in some way complements your message: "Back in college, I read a book that had a character who was always longing for the past. At some point he says, 'Times change and people change; and if our hearts do not change as readily, so much the worse for us.' True enough, isn't it, especially in our personal lives? But it's also true in our professional and business lives. If our hearts - our vision and our practices - do not respond to the changes we see in the times and in people, it really is so much the worse for us."


Isolate through questioning the central issues to be addressed: "In the last few weeks we've been hearing about end-of-life conversations, an idea that evokes strong emotion. But what are these conversations? What is their nature? Who has them? Who needs to have them?"

Your introduction sets a tone and serves as a preview of the kind of presentation your listeners can expect. Aim for engagement and novelty; a unique opening that grabs attention creates momentum. Connect with your audience in these first seconds, arouse their interest, and you will indeed have hit the sweet spot.