Raising awareness with presentations

A presentation is a straightforward way of communicating with an audience. Generally, an effective presentation should involve the following points.

Box labelled Effective presentation. Around the box are 5 other boxes in a sequence. These are labelled Strong art, Focus on needs, Core messages, Eye contact and Breathe and enjoy.

Strong start

Starting strongly means that you grab your audience’s attention so that they don’t immediately switch off.

Here are some effective ways to open a presentation:

  • show an attention-grabbing, but relevant, image
  • tell a short story that is relevant to the presentation
  • tell the audience something about yourself
  • ask an opening question, but don’t answer it until the end of the presentation
  • a joke at the beginning of a presentation can also grab attention
People enjoy listening to stories as this helps build rapport with the audience. However, the story shouldn’t be too long or go off topic.

Quoting statistics at the start of a presentation can also be a useful way to capture people’s interest, as it may make them think about something that they haven’t thought about before, eg

“Did you know that people in Britain spend more time per day on technology devices than they do sleeping? This is based on estimates of eight hours 41 minutes texting, talking, typing, gaming, listening or watching compared to eight hours 21 minutes sleeping.”

Focus on audience needs

You also need to focus on what the audience needs and wants from the presentation. Your presentation should meet their needs in a way that’s easy to understand. This could be done by asking them what they hope to take away from the presentation.

Core message

You should plan on delivering a main core message. A core message is a key fact that you would like your audience to take away with them. It should be brief, as otherwise the audience will not remember it. As a useful guide, the length of a Twitter message (140 characters) is helpful in planning what your core message is.

A careers guidance officer’s core message to a group of students might be as follows.

"Work experience is so important. It helps you decide what you do and don’t want to do in your life."

The manager of a tourist attraction might deliver the following core message to her staff.

“Safety, safety, safety. That is our main responsibility, followed by fun for everyone.”

Eye contact

Making eye contact with your audience is important as it helps build rapport. The audience will be more likely to connect with you and listen to what you are saying.

Breathe and enjoy

Finally, as you may be feeling nervous, think about your breathing and try to slow it down. Try to speak more slowly and clearly than you would in normal conversation, and make sure you speak loudly enough so that your audience can hear you properly. You can also connect with the audience by smiling. Once you settle into the presentation, you may find you enjoy it.

Real-life example

Mhairi Black is a Member of Parliament for Paisley and Renfrewshire South. She was elected in May 2015 and is the youngest person to be a Member of Parliament since 1832. Her first speech was memorable, and demonstrates how to communicate effectively with an audience.


Look at the video clip of Mhairi Black’s maiden speech in the House of Commons. What does she do that helps her presentation start off strongly?

There are many possible answers but you may have noticed the following:

  • she maintains eye contact with her audience
  • she tries to build rapport by telling some funny short stories
  • she quotes some attention-grabbing statistics, such as one in five children in Scotland go to bed hungry at night