Power Presentations Tip 54: How to Open Your Speech

How to open your speech
How to Open Your Speech

The purpose of your opening is to grab the attention and establish rapport with your listeners.

Do not start your presentation with these tired phrases:

  • Thank you for inviting me here to speak
  • I don't know why I have been asked
  • I haven't really prepared anything
  • Today I'm going to talk about
  • A funny thing happened on the way

Those openings are boring at best and possibly annoying.

Instead use these techniques to open your presentation:

  • Pose a challenging question
  • Deliver a striking statement
  • Tell a story
  • Comment on a preceding speaker

Pose a challenging question
Questions immediately engage the minds of your audience. Ask a good question and your audience will be thinking, "That's a good question. What's the answer?"

This is a very effective opening technique.

Some possible opening questions:
How will you thrive in the turbulence of this market?
When you feel defeated, who can you turn to?
How can you sell when nobody is returning your calls?

Deliver a striking statement
A striking or controversial statement will grab attention. Your statement positions you on the issue and defines the starting point of your presentation.

Some ideas for opening statements:
The market isn't our greatest enemy. Our lack of innovation is.
Our business is more like a marathon than a sprint.
Houston, we have a problem.

Tell a story
A well crafted story can immediately engage your audience. But don't start with "I'm going to tell you a story". Just jump right into the story. The story could come from a personal experience, a customer's call or from a scene in a movie.

Comment on a preceding speaker
To use this technique you need to be there before you speak and listen to the other speakers. This technique is especially effective if the speaker before you was the CEO or industry leader. By associating with that authority speaker you leverage their credibility.

When you pick up on a thread of what they said and agree or expand on it, it appears to the audience that the two of you worked together or at least agree. That helps the audience to feel that there is a consistent theme to the meeting.

George Torok

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