Top 10 Tips on How to Open Your Speech

You have a few seconds to engage your audience at the beginning of your presentation. What should you do to ensure a successful opening to your speech? How can you start your speech with greater success?

Imagine that you are at NASA mission control. The launch countdown echoes in your ears: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - Speak! When the space shuttle blasts off, those first few seconds of lift are critical. It is a tiny portion of the total journey, yet if anyone errors during these few seconds the mission will crash and burn. The opening to your speech is equally important to your success as a presenter.

If you stumble during your opening or deliver a weak and confusing opening then you might have lost your audience already. They left the room and you don’t know it. Your presentation will fail.

The mission of the opening to your presentation is to:
1. Grab their interest
2. Establish rapport
3. Introduce your topic

What can you do during those opening seconds and minutes to ensure a powerful launch of your next presentation?

Here are 10 techniques you can use to launch your speech more successfully.

10. Startling statement
Use a bold attention-grabbing statement - with facts, statistics or unusual information. "The greatest fear is to speak in public. The second greatest fear is to die."

9. Suspense/ Surprise
Start with a suspense-building sentence or take them in one direction then hit them with surprise. "It was a dark and stormy night - it was my wedding night."

8. Story/Anecdote
Tell a short story. Start your presentation with a personal story. Place your audience into the story visually and emotionally.

7. Quotation
Use a quotation that taps into the credibility and power of the person who stated those words. "I have a dream, cried out Martin Luther King Jr." Quote from people well known and well liked by your audience.

6. Challenging Question
All good conversations start with a good question and all good presentation should feel like a conversation. Pose a good question at the beginning of your presentation and you will engage your audience. It might be a rhetorical question.

5. Compliment Your Audience
But be sincere. Don't say, "You are the most beautiful audience I have ever seen." Instead say something that impressed you about the group, “I am very impressed with the hospitality shown to me by you today. This lives up to the reputation I have heard about your community work.”

4. The Occasion
Comment on the occasion - especially if it is an anniversary or awards night. "To speak to you on your 10th annual awards dinner is an honor." Or reveal some tidbit about the group that outsiders would not normally know. "Happy Birthday to your founding president." This takes a little research on your part and is well worth it.

3. Prop or Visual
Grab the attention of your audience and set the mood with a funny hat, costume or stuffed animal. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), would blow a cloud of smoke on stage before he made his entrance. He usually got a laugh before he spoke. You might roll a ball across the stage or play with a yo-yo. What you do before you speak can be powerful.

2. Previous speaker
Pick up on something a previous speaker said or did - especially if that was the president or chairman of the board. Build on what they said. It shows that you listened and lends you more credibility especially if your message agrees with the boss.

1. Engage the audience
Ask a question that requires the audience to answer, or one that is sure to make them think and laugh. "How many of you saw the disaster movie Cat Woman? - - Who wishes you didn’t?

5 Bonus tips for opening your presentation:

  • Avoid boring openings like "My topic is..." or "Today I am going to talk about..."
  • Never start with an apology. "I'm sorry we are running late." "I'm sorry the president couldn't be here." "I'm sorry about the meal."
  • Take your position on stage and pause for at least 5 seconds before you speak.
  • Smile while you first look around the audience.
  • Encourage your audience to laugh. You'll feel better and they will like you.

Use any one of these 10 tips to open your speech and you will grab the attention of your audience. You’ll be on your way to a more powerful opening and more productive and profitable presentation.


© George Torok is the Presentation Skills Expert. He helps business leaders deliver million dollar presentations. For more free tips on how to deliver your speech visit http://www.SpeechCoachforExecutives.com Arrange presentation skills training for your team and presentation coaching for your executives with George Torok by calling 905-335-1997


Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives.
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