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5 Ways to Begin a Speech

Public Speaking Tips, Part 1:

Imagine you’re at a conference. The guest speaker arrives onstage and begins with:

  • a quote we’ve all heard
  • a dull definition, e.g.: “The Oxford Dictionary defines management as …” or
  • a thank you… “Thank you for having me.”

Would you be excited? NO!

Your Next Speech

People want to hear something fresh. Do you want to give a great presentation?

Your first minute is critical. Here are five ways to begin a speech that will get people’s attention:

1. Open with a Question Everyone Can Relate to

Example: if your topic is relationships you might ask: “Who has had a relationship that you would rather forget?”

Immediately, your audience is engaged.

Example: your topic is investment. You ask: “Who has ever been short of money? Hands up!”

People will smile and nod. Whether they raise their hands is unimportant.

2. Find Something in Common

If you are an acknowledged expert or a top CEO, your audience may be slightly intimidated. Be humble. You could open with something like:

“My sixteen-year-old thinks I know nothing – so I was encouraged to receive your invitation…”

3. Make a Statement that Summarizes Your Message

“At 25 I discovered something shocking. The happiest people I knew had bigger problems than me.”

We were into the content within 10 seconds. People like that.

4. Share a Surprising Fact

Say something unexpected. Begin with a weird fact.

Example: Your topic is health. You begin: “The American pygmy shrew eats three times it’s body weight every day. Who ever tried that?”

Google facts related to your topic: what is the biggest, the most expensive? What was the dumbest mistake?

5. Open with a Story

Stories can be a perfect. Craft your first sentence to arouse curiosity. I began a speech on achieving goals:

“My wife, Julie, built an orphanage for 250 babies in Jakarta with no money.”

Immediately, people want to know, “How did she do that?”

A Confident Start

Make a bright start and the battle is half-won. If you want to thank people, do it later in your speech.

Once you have decided on your first few sentences, learn them so you can say them in your sleep. DON’T change one word.

Then go out there and nail it!

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