Public Speaking – Five Great Ways to Open a Speech

Most non-professional speakers have no idea how to begin a speech. When they stand in front of an audience, they hem and haw their way around until they find their groove. But you can start with a bang.

These five great ways to open a speech will make you stand out from the bunch:

“Doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners.” Hopefully your reaction to this statement is “What!” That’s the reaction you want from such an opening. Your aim is to startle your audience, to catch them off guard. When you manage to do that, they will immediately pay attention because your are effectively telling them that you are going to discuss things they have never heard before.

“Once upon a time…” Tell a story. Everyone loves a good story, especially if it is one that people don’t expect, and one that is told exceptionally well. Begin with a story that is related to the topic; don’t tell a story just for the sake of it.

“Please raise your hand if you…” Get them to participate immediately. You can do this by asking a question that asks them to raise their hand, or do something. The idea is to get the audience moving and doing something very quickly. Your worst enemy is stillness. Stillness will cause the audience to fall asleep. So get them moving as often and as early as possible.

“Remember the last time you…” Establish contact early. Notice the use of the word “you.” Its goal is to get the audience to think of themselves and to feel something related to your topic. Then, you can build on it. However, “Remember the last time you dove from an airplane” will not cut it! You need to use something that most, if not all, of your audience members have experienced.

“………………….” Silence is golden. Before uttering a single word, wait a few seconds. Stand in silence in front of the audience, for five or ten seconds if you can stand it. It might seem like an eternity to you, because we are not used to stand in the presence of others and not say anything. But the more you wait, the more it piques the curiosity of the audience. All sorts of thoughts will go through their minds: “What’s wrong? Has she forgotten what to say? Is he feeling OK?” After a few seconds, begin with a bang. Don’t begin by saying “Hi, I’m glad to be here…”

The two most important parts of a speech are the introduction and the conclusion. The introduction sets the tone for your speech, while the conclusion determines how the audience will feel when they leave. By using one of these openings, you can set yourself up to deliver a great speech.

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Laurent Duperval helps professionals become influent communicators. He publishes the “Bring Out The Speaker In You” electronic newsletter, which aims to help readers improve their public speaking and communication skills.

You can reach him at

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