How To Set The Scene At The Start Of A Business Presentation

Posted by Belinda Huckle  |  On October 9, 2009  |  In Presentation Training, Tips & Advice

Starting a presentation is a bit like starting a car.  You don’t jump in, throw it into 5th gear and try to roar off.  If you did you’d probably stall the car, damage your gear box and make a fool of yourself.  The same is true with presenting!  You’ve got to get yourself and your audience up to speed.  To do this you need to set the scene and take control.  Here’s how:

Set the scene and take control 


The first thing to do is provide your audience with a clearly defined PURPOSE for the presentation.  It’s like telling your car passengers where you’re going.  But make it about them, not you!  So include a WIFT i.e. What’s In It For Them, so they’ll be eager and engaged from the start.

The next 3 scene setting components are optional, so only put in what you need.


  • Introducing yourself and/or the team.
  • Providing context to the presentation e.g. the background situation, recapping on the brief, reminding the audience of any prior meetings or discussions etc.
  • This is also a great time to build rapport with your audience.  Can you:
    –       Acknowledge the challenges or successes in their world
    –       Pre-empt any concerns they might have about the content within your presentation
    –       Proactively manage their expectations


I’m sure you’re familiar with the sorts of things housekeeping can include, but just in case here are some examples:

–       Saying thank you to the audience
–       Letting them know how long you’ll be talking for
–       Stating when you want the audience to ask you questions
–       Letting them know if you’re going to be asking them questions
–       Advising if there will be any interruptions or breaks during the presentation
–       Letting them know catering arrangements
–       Telling them if there will be handouts during, or leave behinds after, the presentation.

Then there are the presentation ‘rules’ regarding things like mobiles, blackberries, laptops etc as well toilet location and emergency procedures.


As the name suggests, this is a great tool to get the attention of the audience, to set the mood of the presentation, and to reduce your nerves.

Don’t worry, your attention grab doesn’t have to be wildly creative.  What it must do however is support your message in some way.  Otherwise there’s a danger that the only thing people will remember will be your attention grab and not the point of your presentation!

There are loads of great sources for attention grabs.

Ok, having decided what you’re going to say to set the scene and take control of your presentation, you now need to determine in which order it makes sense to say them.  There’s no right or wrong – just whatever order seems to flow right for you.

Great, so now we have some relevant scene setting information to ease you and your audience into the presentation, plus they all now know why they are there listening to you.  I’d say you’re ready for lift off!

p.s. remember it’s your personality that powers your presentation performance.

Belinda Huckle

Written By Belinda Huckle

Co-Founder & Managing Director

Read Bio

Belinda is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of SecondNature International. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training both In-Person and Online, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.

Belinda believes that people don’t have to change who they are to be the presenter they want to be. So she developed a coaching approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.

She has helped to transform the presentation skills of people around the world in an A-Z of organisations including Amazon, BBC, Brother, BT, CocaCola, DHL, EE, ESRI, IpsosMORI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Moonpig, Nationwide, Pfizer, Publicis Groupe, Roche, Savills, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.

A total commitment to quality, service, your people and you.