How to Start a Speech

My single most widely watched video ever on youtube is “How to Start a Speech”. The opening line of the video is: “What are the first words you should say in a speech?”

In today’s busy, distraction-filed world… you have a few seconds at the beginning of any speech (youtube video, tiktok, instagram etc) to engage the audience… and if you lose them… you have lost.

How to Start a Speech

Why it is so Important to Start a Speech well

Starting a speech well is essential in order to capture your audience’s attention and set the tone for the rest of your presentation. A strong opening establishes credibility, engages your audience, and creates a positive impression.

In this article, we’ll cover tips on understanding your audience, creating a strong opening, and delivering your words with emotion and energy. These tips will help you make a memorable first impression and deliver a successful speech.

Understanding the Audience

If you do not know your audience, do not speak. You must have some ideas about where they are struggling, and what sort of hopes and dreams they have for themselves.

Poor communication starts from “what I want to say”; Great communication starts from “what they need to hear”. You must know your audience in order to be great.

Here are some tips for researching and understanding your audience:

  1. Demographics: Age, gender, education, common struggles and common interests.
  2. Event Purpose: Understand why your audience is attending the speech and what they hope to gain from it.
  3. Anticipate questions: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and think about what questions they may have.
  4. Engage your audience: I’ll often ask to speak to a few of the participants ahead of the event. I want to ask them questions about their motivation for attending the event. This will help establish a connection with them and create a more engaging speech.

How to Start a Speech

The opening of your speech is crucial. It sets the tone for the rest of the speech and can make or break your audience’s attention. Here are some tips for crafting a strong opening:

  1. Grabber”: Your opening should grab your audience’s attention and make them want to listen to the rest of your speech. There are 3 powerful ways to achieve this.
    • Anecdote: A brief story or personal experience that relates to your topic. One of the best experiences to share is often the moment in your life when this topic became important for you.
    • Quote: A powerful or thought-provoking quote that relates to your topic.
    • Rhetorical question: A question that prompts your audience to think about your topic and engage with your message.
  2. Relevant: Your opening should be relevant to your topic and the audience you are speaking to. This can help establish a connection with your audience and make them more likely to engage with your message.
  3. Concise: Your opening should be brief and to the point. Avoid rambling or going off on tangents. A short, focused opening can help you establish credibility and keep your audience’s attention.
  4. Energy: The way you deliver your opening can also impact its effectiveness. Gestures and vocal inflections can emphasise key points and add impact to your opening.

A strong opening will grab your audience’s attention, establish credibility, and set the tone for the rest of your speech. By considering your audience, choosing a relevant opening, and delivering it effectively, you can craft a strong opening that engages your audience and sets you up for success.

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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