They say first impression is a lasting impression. Well, it is good in theory. The question is how do I create a good first impression in practice, especially on stage when it comes to speaking in public?
In this section, let’s look at some of the tried and tested ways of beginning a speech.
A good beginning is like taking hold of the audience within the first 10 seconds and then continuing the tempo to the rest of the speech.
But before we delve into the good ways to begin a speech, let’s first look at some of the common errors we make while beginning a speech.
Speech Beginning Error 1: “Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak in front of all of you.”
Speech Beginning Error 2: “Good morning everyone, my name is XYZ and today I am going to speak about [speech topic].”
Speech Beginning Error 3: “Before I start with my speech, I would like to say that I was asked to speak at the last moment and couldn’t give much time to prepare my speech.”
Speech Beginning Error 4: (For impromptu speaking) “Good morning everyone, my topic is [speech topic].” Chances are the audience has already heard the topic. No need to repeat it.
These ways of beginning a speech take the attention away from the audience in the very beginning. Instead, let’s try these.
Some of the good ways to begin a speech:
- A Story
“It was evening. The year was 1995, I was 8 years old. I was walking in the park when I saw this crazy old man with long hair, flowing beard and wearing a black robe. The sun was about to set. I looked here and there and suddenly I found that were was no one around. I got scared.
With a tinge of fear on my face, I looked at the man and to my horror, he looked back. He had dark eyes, tall body and a dark face. My heart was beating like the drums of a metal song. Then, he laughed. The moment I saw his broken teeth and heard his loud hefty laughter, I got so scared that I shouted, “Mmmmooooommmmmmmmmm….”
I ran from the place as fast as I could to find shelter. Without looking back, I ran and ran. After running for almost 20 minutes, I stopped at this street and I found that my home was only a few miles away. Relieved, I looked back. No sign of the scary old man. I took a sigh of relief and started walking back home.
Ladies and gentlemen, on that day, I learnt an extremely important lesson….”
— A speech based on learning from a life event.
Stories, almost always, are great ways to begin a speech. Even if people forget your speech or what it was about, they will remember the stories you told them and how you made them feel.
- A Rhetorical Question
A rhetorical question is a question that you ask without expecting an answer. The purpose is to get the audience thinking in the direction you want them to.
“Have you ever had a ‘What if’ question when you tried to do something you were afraid of?“ – A speech on fear.
“If today was the last day of your life, what would you want to do?” – A speech on dreams.
“How many of you actively volunteer at every chance you get to deliver a presentation?” – A speech on delivering great presentations.
- A ‘Yes Answer’ Question
Similar to a Rhetorical Question is a ‘Yes Answer’ question which automatically gets a ‘Yes’ answer by the audience. Something like:
“Do you want to earn a million dollars on passive income and leave your job in six months?” – A speech on personal finances.
“Do you want to know how to lose 5 kg of weight in 4 weeks without doing any exercise?” – A speech on weight loss and health.
- A Shocking Statistic or Statement
“Do you know that from the time I got up from my seat to this time when I’m saying this, 5 people have died in our country from road accidents?” – A speech on road accidents.
- A Short Poem
“The stage was set, their bodies did sweat.
They were ready to run, at the sound of the gun.
On your marks, get set, FIRE!”
– A speech on the story of a race.
- A Quote
“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” said Napoleon Hill.
“Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.” said our ex President, Late Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
- A Joke
“If we are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for?”
“Wine improves with age. I improve with wine.”
- Something Totally Unexpected
Such as a magic trick at the start of a Keynote Address!
These are eight of the tested and effective ways to open a speech. You may use any one or more of these in your subsequent speeches.
However, there is absolutely no need to restrict yourself to these. You might just as well experiment with something totally new and blow your audience’s heads off (metaphorically speaking). Do let me know if you are able to do that. I would love to know more about it!
A good start is half the job done. Let’s make sure that from now onward, you grab the audience’s attention right in the first 10 seconds of your speech, and continue with it in the rest of the speech all the way to the end.