One of the things I like to do when I start a game/campaign is to provide the players pre-gens. Pre-gens tailor made for each person. I ask a few questions ahead of time like what class they would like to play and personality. Then I create the characters around what they want to play then, I take the time to construct a loose background, give them information about the world they are about to explore so they are not going in cold. I provide them with allies, family and enemies.
I've done this in the past and it has worked very well and the players seem to like it. It provides a character backstory before they get started, helps them get an idea of the world, provides knowledge footholds of villages, people and businesses. I send them their characters a few days ahead of time so they can read through and they can ask any questions. If time allows I have in the past run them through solo sessions.
During the first night the players all should have had their characters and read through them enough to know the backstory. I always have connections or hints at things during the session that refer to their backstory.
Next Thursday night I'll be running a session with three, possible four players and tonight I'll be working on creating them. I'm looking forward to actually playing it instead of writing about it.