The beginning of your public speech is the most important part and if you don’t hit the nail on the head then you lose your audience immediately.
If you don’t engage your audience in the first five/ten seconds of your opening speech then they’re already going to be on their phone, they’re already going to be looking at Facebook and reading their email or they may have written you off completely.
Here is my advice on how to begin a public speech.
I want to look at some strategies for openings that actively engage your audience and draw them in and build rapport.
What we’re going to do is go through six ways to open your public speech and then a couple of things that you should not do. These different techniques obviously you can’t use them all at once because you only get one beginning so go through them and see which ones work best for your particular speech.
1. Shock and Awe
Number one is what I call shock and awe and it’s also been called pace and lead. Basically what you do is you open with a shocking statement.
Something that grabs people’s attention and draws them in and then you lead them through that. Here’s an example:
“Did you know that if you save 15 percent of your income (earning 6%) over ten years and you earn $100,000 a year at the end of ten years you would only have about $209,000 dollars to show for that. You wouldn’t be anywhere close to being financially free.”
That statement is a little bit shocking and then you go in through and you lead them and you talk about how you’re going to solve their problem for them.
2. Open with a Story
Stories are one of the most effective ways to open a public speech and to deliver a public speech. Make sure that you’re using stories throughout the speech.
As humans we learn and we grow through stories and we spend our entire lives telling stories about our day and listening to other people’s stories. That is how we learn and grow and that is how we remember as well.
People are more likely to remember the stories of your speech rather than the points that you might give. By opening with a story that relates to your speech that can be a very effective way to do this.
I remember watching one of the winners from Toastmasters I think it was about five years ago and he opened with a personal story about how he needed to validate his parking ticket and he went to the lady to validate it and he said “can you validate me” and then she gave him some compliments back and validated him as a person and that lead him into his speech about how we can validate other human beings.
That story that he opened with was extremely strong and as you can see I remember right now as we’re talking.
Stories are memorable; stories are impactful and stories are something you should definitely use in openings if you can.
3. Ask a Question
Number three would be to ask a question and then lead into your topic. You’re asking a rhetorical question to the audience.
We can ask: “Have you ever created a presentation and not known an effective way to begin that presentation and engage your audience?” Then that can lead into your topic about talking about presentations. That’s an idea of asking your question.
4. Who Wants What I Have to Offer?
This is basically an extension of number three which is asking a question. Basically we’re asking a rhetorical question where the answer is obviously always going to be yes.
Who wants to become rich? Who wants to earn $100,000 in passive income and be able to leave your job?
Things like this who wants to not have to deal with this anymore? Or who wants to save an hour of time every day that moves you towards your dreams?
All of these questions are things that people obviously want. Basically you’re opening with this obvious yes question which then leads into your topic about how you’re going to show them how to get that.
5. Utilize Familiarity
Use something that is familiar to your audience and using that familiarity to draw them into your speech.
Let’s say we were talking about taxes:
You could open with: “Death and taxes, the only two things that are certain in this life.”
That’s obviously a phrase that people are familiar with; that the only two things in life that are certain are death and taxes. Then you can go on to talk about how you can avoid paying extra tax and things like that.
6. Be Yourself
Rather than going out there and trying to be funny if you’re not funny. Trying to be like Tony Robbins and pump everyone up if you’re not that sort of person. Just go out there; be yourself; let your personality show and let your personality shine.
That’s what people want to see. People want to listen to real people. They don’t want to see someone who is fake and if you try and be fake it will shine through.
Things You Shouldn’t Do When Beginning a Public Speech
A. Do Not Start With Your Name
Don’t start with hi my name is Ryan and I’m from X company and I’ve worked in the industry for seven years and worked in a variety of different fields within this industry and I’ve come to know … blah, blah, blah, blah. People do not care who you are. They care what you have to say.
I found that I was opening my speeches like this until I learned that doing this is such a silly mistake to make. At first it was hard to not say who I was especially when I’m doing training with stores and a bunch of staff that I haven’t worked with me before who don’t actually know who I am.
But to open up with something that’s engaging with them and then to bring my name and my credibility into it after I’ve already made a good impression, I found that that’s so much more powerful.
2. Don’t Tell People What You Are Going to Tell Them
People don’t want to be told what to do.
Basically avoid opening your speech with saying “now ladies and gentlemen today I’m going to talk to you about how to be an amazing ballerina” or something like that.
People don’t want to be told what to do; they want to be engaged.
What we want to do is use the more subtle approaches; I guess more indirect approaches that I mentioned above.
That’s shock and awe, using stories, asking a question, showing or asking a rhetorical question of who wants what I have to offer and using familiarity. Those five things are great ways to open a public speech.
I hope that this has given you some ideas that you can take and then apply to your public speech. Introductions are the most important part of your speech, so take the time to craft your opening effectively.