It’s that terrible moment. You’ve suddenly been called to the stage, for elocution, or to present your organization, the audience is listening silently and waiting for you to start. You have been asked to present a speech that engages all your audience, to promote sales, or to convince the audience about your company’s profile. But how should you start in the first place? How should you start a speech that shows your power and confidence, rather than the boring speech starter “Erm… thanks for inviting me here…”
The truth is, your audience will judge you from the moment you open your mouth – by the way, you start your speech, end your speech, body language, tone, and in every possible way. But, as it is said, the first impression is the last impression, you may start in a way that simply astonishes them and creates a good impression on them. To build an instant connection with the audience and draw their attention towards you, it’s always a good idea to start your speech with certainty and confidence, so they are interested and curious to know what you have in store for them.
There is a huge list of ways to start a speech, but it’s not just about the opening lines – there’s more to it! Why not dive in and see for yourself the pro tips and speech starters to open a speech?
Firstly, here are some things to keep in mind when giving a speech to a large audience:
1) Prepare well in advance – Prepare your draft well in advance before the day and make sure you have it proofread by others (colleagues and friends). The speech should have a robust opening line that will refresh the audience, draw their attention, and keep them interested in what you have to tell next. Next, the narrating style should be active with proper grammar and tone. Finally, the conclusion should be strong enough to convince your audience and achieve your goal – to sell a service or product, to start a campaign, to drive admission, whatever it is. The ending should consist of a call to action paragraph. The best tip when you are preparing for a speech is to practice in front of the mirror. Practice, practice, practice – In front of the mirror, speak to a small group of friends or family, speak in front of a big group of friends, remove all your fears and nervousness and build your confidence. Practice confidence.
2) Be yourself – When you are writing the draft and speaking the same on stage, make sure you are not copying anyone else. Ensure you are being yourself and showing your creativity, body language, tone, and original personality. This will attract your audience more and will serve your purpose. This will also boost your confidence, so make sure when you practice, you are being yourself.
3) Opening line counts – The first 60 seconds are the crucial part of a speech and will decide whether or not the audience is moved by your presentation. Write down an interesting opening line and practice your speech starter more and more. The first impression is the last impression – you don’t want to lose the audience’s interest. We have jotted down the list of all possible interesting speech starters here, have a look!
4) Telling an engaging story – Try to preach your idea, service, or your product (if you want to drive sales through your speech) through an interesting and engaging story that narrates about the utility of the topic. People are interested in something only when they can find a utility of that product that matches their needs, so try to be informative and focus on the ‘Why’ of the topic, product, or service.
5) Connect with yourself and the audience – Stories are more effective in connecting with the audience rather than raw facts and data. Strongly narrating your story captures the attention of the audience instantly and sets the mood for the whole talk.
Some of the most common ways of opening a speech are thanksgiving, complimenting the audience, starting a positive statement, and so on. But, you might want to start in an unusual manner. Thus, you may want to know the best ways and tips to start a speech as the opening lines will set the tone of your presentation. Most amateur speakers make the biggest mistake at this moment and loose in the process despite having a strong story to tell. Public speaking is indeed an art. Here’s a list of the most effective ways of opening a speech that will create a strong impression on the audience’s minds:
- A strong statement followed by a question
- A shocking statement
- A current or historical event
- A problem
- Statistical data
- Personal anecdote or experience
- Demonstration of a physical object
- Testimony or success story
1) A strong statement followed by a question
You can begin by making a strong statement, followed by asking an interesting question. You can then ask the audience to answer that question to increase engagement, or you may yourself follow with an answer. You can start your speech right after that or even ask another question. This gets people immediately engaged in the speech and pay heed to your every word.
Here’s an example:
“Thirty percent of all school and college-going students in our society make above 10,000 bucks of money every month. Do you already belong to the top 30 percent? If not, would you like to be a member of the top 30 percent or the top twenty percent? Well, In the next few minutes, I will give you some easy ideas to help you earn some of your pocket money on your own. Would that be an interesting idea to discuss for our time together today?”
2) A startling statement
You can start your talk by making a startling statement to gain attention and involvement. For instance, you might say something like:
“A deer is twenty times more likely to kill you than a whale-shark.”
“Every year in the US, more than 200 people die by deer-car collision.”
The above startling statement could open a speech or presentation as a practical way of selling cars or airbags with advanced technology. It may even open a speech about how to avoid hitting a deer.
3) A current or historical event
Talking about historical quotes to open a talk, you can say, “For many years, I was an archaeologist working in areas of Harappa…”
Or, an opening line about the famous commander of Alexander the Great and his army against Darius of Persia could be used as an opening line to give a speech on leadership principles to a room full of managers.
You may then draw a line between your speech starter and topic by saying:
“This is the exact situation that pertains between you and your major competitors in the market today, and you have to employ all your leadership skills to win the great marketing battles in the near future.”
Alternatively, you can use a current event or a hot topic of discussion in the front-page news heading to open your speech. You can also use a relevant newspaper and showcase it as a physical object and read the headline once. Such a visual image of you holding the paper and reading a key point will automatically rivet the audience’s attention and causes them to lean forward to listen cautiously to your speech.
4) A problem
You can begin with a major problem that needs to be paid attention to be solved immediately. If it is a common problem (common to the majority of your audience), then you will immediately have the crowd’s undivided attention.
For example, you can speak this:
“A total of 86 percent of the working population are moving towards retirement without enough money put aside to serve them after their retirement for as long as they are going to live, including me. We must address this problem immediately and take necessary actions to ensure that each of us will be able to live comfortably in our old age.”
You can start with a positive and hopeful statement and then ask a question requiring a show of hands.
You could say something like this:
“This is a great time to be alive and invest in your own start-up in Europe. By the way, how many of our audience present here are presently self-employed?”
You could slowly dive into your facts telling why it is a good time to be self-employed, give government rules and relaxations, consumer demand in major sectors, and show them a comparable statistics of paycheck using a visual to convince them.
You can start your talk with a powerful story that grabs the complete attention of the audience, for example, you can start with, “Once upon a time…”
People of age groups like to hear stories, so the moment you speak out, “Once upon a time….,” people will immediately sit still with their complete attention to hear what’s coming next.
Storytelling technique of starting a speech is especially effective after a long day of the seminar, where people are already bored and tired of all ongoing events and speeches. In fact, the story technique is one of the best speech starters for any kind of campaign for any kind of business or organization.
You can begin with a quote from a recent research study.
One example is:
“According to a report in a recent researched story in BusinessTimesAsia, there were more than 25 million millionaires in Asia in 2019, most of them self-made.”
8) Statistical data
You can grab the attention of your audience by projecting statistical data through a projector or narrating the data in simple words. However, the visual process is more effective. Then slowly tell them why you started with this data in the first place and how they could get benefitted from it. You can also tell them a forecast of the data, as in what will be the figures after few years, and how your audience can benefit from your service, product, or ideas based on that statistical graph.
Make sure that the graph is comprehensible with an easy presentation, and does not contain terms that the majority audience cannot understand. If the data contains such terms, replace them with synonyms, or explain them briefly to your audience.
9) Personal anecdote or experience
This technique is specifically effective when you want to sell a product or service. You can start by narrating your personal experience when you visited a brand, or an event, as a judge, for test driving, as a guest, or an ambassador.
Start by telling them what superior features or utility you could find through your experience.
Humour is an excellent ice-breaker for lectures and speeches. There is nothing that can create an instant connection between the presenter and his audience than a good joke. This technique is even effective than storytelling as a speech starter. Humour can be mastered by all, even if you are not an inborn comedian. To speak of comedian, you don’t have to act like a comedian, but you can essentially use joking gestures to emphasize your humor lines.
But before you start, an important tip is to know your audience – this will help you determine what kind and intensity of jokes may draw their attention or entertain them. Do thorough research on your audience and draft the speech – know their age group, profession, culture, race, and ethnicity. Last but not least, do not crack offensive jokes to entertain them – avoid mockery on the basis of age, caste, sex, profession, and so on.
11) Demonstration of a physical object
Physical objects serve as a great medium to start a speech. You can start your speech by showing them a relevant and interesting object related to the story you are going to narrate. This will make the audience be keen on hearing your words.
12) Testimony or success story
Narrate stories of your colleagues or clients who have previously benefitted from your product, service, or similar speeches. You can tell them about your company’s success story from where you began and where you have reached now, the ups and downs of the pathway, and your company’s qualities that you strongly feel proud about.
Now that you have gained a detailed insight into how to open a speech, you should feel confident and practice keeping these guidelines in mind. You can also be adventurous and try out more than one technique in a single speech – it’s no crime!