If you want to create a great public speech then you need to nail the opening. The opening will cause your audience to either listen in to what you have to say or to pull out their phone and start browsing through Facebook.
Your opening is so important. You want to create an opening that shocks the audience and grabs their attention. You want it to be memorable after the presentation is over.
Creating a great speech opening isn’t easy. Often we’re taught in school to start a presentation by telling people exactly what you’re about to speak about. And then you speak about it. How boring…
We want to create a speech opening that is more memorable and exciting – something that will cause your audience to listen in. Here are my four tips on how to create a memorable speech opening.
Tip#1: Use the art of misdirection
This is when you lead people along a path and then suddenly abrupt that path with something unexpected. The reason that this works successfully is because it peaks the audience’s curiosity as to why you changed the direction that the speech was going in.
Let’s look at some of the greatest speakers of all time. There are people like Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, or Kermit the Frog.
Wait. Kermit the Frog? What do you mean Kermit the Frog? How is Kermit the Frog one of the greatest public speakers of all time?
Using the art of misdirection peaks the audience’s interest and gets them to listen to more of what you have to say. They have never thought about Kermit the Frog as being a great public speaker and they want to hear your perspective.
Tip#2: Tell people Something They Didn’t Know But Thought They Did
Tip number two is to tell people something they didn’t know but thought they did.
So here’s something for you. Did you know that when Christopher Columbus discovered America, the people at that time actually knew the world was round?
The story goes that everyone thought that the world was flat but Christopher Columbus knew otherwise. Then he sailed to the other side of the world and found America.
The truth of the matter is that it was a commonly held belief at that time that the world was round. Christopher Columbus was actually arguing with the Queen of Spain about the size of the earth. He thought the world was a lot smaller than it actually is.
He thought that going in the opposite direction would allow him to find a shorter trade route to China. Obviously he didn’t find China. He bumped into America and the story goes on from there.
But something that we believe to be true – which is that everyone at that time thought the world was flat – can be enlightened by revealing that people actually didn’t believe that the world was flat.
This peaks your interest because you want to correct your beliefs and understand the other side of the story. Teach people something they didn’t know but they thought they did and you will earn their attention.
Tip#3: Come at your topic from an unusual angle
Tip number three is to look at something in a more interesting way or to come at something from an unexpected angle.
Jerry Seinfeld established public speaking as the number one fear despite the fact that there may have only been little truth in the statement. And he did this by looking at it in a different way.
Simply stating that public speaking is the number one fear would not be memorable. Instead he made the joke that more people at a funeral would prefer to be in the coffin than to be giving the eulogy.
This funny context was something that you wouldn’t usually think of. Coming at the topic from an interesting angle allowed him to make the claim that “public speaking is the number one fear” very memorable.
So try to think of ways that you can come at something from a different angle and be a little bit unexpected.
Tip#4: Tell relatable stories
And tip number four is to use stories that people can put themselves in.
Jesus Christ did this really well. It doesn’t matter whether you believe Jesus was the son of God or not. The stories he told are nonetheless effective in getting his point across.
Jesus spoke about things that were relevant to the people at that time. He spoke about shepherds and kings, about taxes and working the land.
He told stories where people could put themselves in the situation and understand the story better and understand the message that he was trying to deliver.
I go to church and have heard many sermons. And the most memorable ones are those to which I can personally relate. An example would be the pastor who spoke about his daughter whom he sadly lost to cancer. As a father with a daughter, I could relate to the emotion in this story and understand how traumatic the experience must have been.
Stories are a very effective way to create a memorable speech. Relate to your audience and you will be able to tie in your core message and peak people’s curiosity.
So there you have the four ways to create a memorable or shocking speech opening.
Be powerful, be strong and be a great public speaker. I know you’re going to nail it.