• Nadine Hanafi

6 Irresistible Ice Breakers to Help You Start Your Presentation With a Bang

Delivering a brilliant presentation starts with your introduction.

The first 60 seconds of your talk set the tone for the rest of your presentation.

Those are the precious seconds during which your audience will decide whether to stay tuned for the rest of it or whip out their smartphones and check their newsfeeds.

That first minute is also the time when you are the most nervous so it is all the more important to plan a powerful introduction that will help you break the ice, feel confident and avoid those nasty public speaking jitters.

An exceptional introduction will capture your audience’s attention and get them hooked so you can reel them in.

Here are four things you must do in your introduction:

  1. Prepare a mouth watering headline/title for your talk so you can whet your audience’s appetite before you even start talking

  2. Establish your credibility

  3. Explain what you’re about to talk about and give them a reason for listening

  4. Start with an ice breaker and make a connection

I know coming up with ideas to start your presentation can be daunting so I'm giving you a few ideas to spark your creativity and get you on the right track.

These opening techniques will help you plan a powerful introduction for your next presentation! You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make it count.

Opening #1: Share a Quote

Sharing a quote can be an excellent way to open your presentation especially if it's a quote that gets people thinking or somehow immerses them into the context of your presentation.

Opening #2: Share a Significant Fact Or a Shocking Statistic

This opening technique consists in starting your presentation by sharing a thought-provoking fact or statistic that sparks your audience’s curiosity.

This can be a great way to jolt your audience into a state of “Really? Tell me more!”

This technique works well when the facts or figures you share are not common knowledge but are relevant and help you make a point.

For best results, you will want to deliver this statement with a little bit of a punch; a dramatic voice followed by a reflective pause.

When you do this you are essentially creating a curiosity gap. Curiosity gap are incredibly powerful attention grabbers. Why? Because the juxtaposition of the known and the unknown fascinates. It creates the desire to know more.

George Loewenstein, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon, says: “curiosity is simple: it comes when we feel a gap between what we know and what we want to know — like an itch that we need to scratch”.

So all you have to do is shine a light on that gap and create an itch that your audience will irresistibly want to scratch.

Opening #3: Share a Story

We are story junkies. Narratives have this incredible power to win hearts and minds.

People naturally crave stories because we crave connection.

Sharing a story as an introduction to your presentation instantly establishes a connection between you and your audience and ultimately leads them to take action.

Why? Because connection is the mother of persuasion and there’s no better way to influence someone than through an authentic, heartfelt connection.

Whether it’s a cautionary tale, an inspirational story or a funny anecdote, a story can take big ideas, abstract concepts, dry facts and translate them into something we can experience, and feel.

Your story should make a point or contain a message that you can tie to your presentation.

Need inspiration? My favorite resource and when I need story ideas for my presentations is the book Lead With a Story by Paul Smith.

Opening #4: Get The Audience to Imagine a Scenario

With this technique, you invite your audience to create a mental image or imagine a scenario. Start with “imagine” or “suppose”.

This is a great way to engage your audience right out of the gate as you get them to play along and use their imaginations.

There are 3 ways to use this technique effectively:

  1. Ask them to imagine being in someone else's shoes. What would they do?

  2. Ask them to imagine a positive outcome or a better tomorrow if we take a certain action

  3. Ask them to visualize a metaphor or abstract concept to make it feel more “real”

When using this opening, establish eye contact with your audience as you invite them to take a journey with you. Ask them to visualize the picture you are painting but also invoke concrete sounds and feelings.


In the movie “Up In The Air”, Clooney’s character gives a great speech using the “imagine” technique to make the point to his audience that their lives are weighing them down.

“Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Feel them?

Now I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things, the things on shelves and in drawers… Feel the weight as that adds up.

Then you start adding the larger stuff: clothes; tabletop appliances; lamps; linens; your TV.

The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now and you go bigger: your couch, bed, your kitchen table… Now try to walk. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it?”

Opening #5: Ask a Series of Rhetorical Questions

Asking a series of rhetorical questions at the start of your presentation helps you stimulate your audience's mind as they ponder the answers and anticipate your explanation.

Asking questions also helps give your talk a more conversational tone and establishes a connection with your audience because they feel like they are taking part in your presentation.

Two things to keep in mind when using this opening:

  1. Ask open ended questions and avoid questions that evoke yes/no answers

  2. Ask specific and thought-provoking questions


In his TED talk, “Start With Why”, Simon Sinek starts with a series of rhetorical questions:

"How do you explain when things don't go as we assumed? Or better, how do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions? For example, why is Apple so innovative? ...

Why is it that they seem to have something different?

Why is it that Martin Luther King led the civil rights movement?“

After posing all these questions, Sinek has got the audience on the edge of their seats, pondering answers to these very pertinent questions.

He then goes on to explain his theory and answers these questions though his talk.

Opening #6: Bring a Prop

Sometimes, you just “gotta see it to believe it”.

If you’re feeling adventurous and up for a little drama (not the reality tv kind, but actual theatrical drama), a fun and memorable way to start your presentation and put your audience under your spell is to literally show them what you are going to talk about.

If you do it right, this opening technique will not only capture the audience’s attention but it will likely keep them talking about your presentation long after your 20 minutes are up.

Two ways to boost the effectiveness of this opening:

1. Build Up Anticipation

Talking about the prop before you show it will help you build a sense of anticipation, focus your audience’s attention and give the prop even greater impact when it is revealed.

2. Be Creative With Your Props

Use your imagination and try to think of unusual props that would be both unexpected and effective. One way is to think about metaphors or analogies for the point you are making and then find an object that will embody/illustrate the metaphor.

Want more presentation tips like these? Check out my book Slide Therapy.

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