How to Open a Speech or Presentation

The audience is seated.  The lights dim and the room quiets.  All eyes are on the dais.   All too often, this is what is heard to open the speech or presentation:

“Hi, thank you for having me.  It is an honor to be here with you today.   My name is ____ _______, and I am going to be speaking to you today about_______.”

Looking around, here is what I tend to see:

1) People reviewing a physical copy of the program, their notes, even the labeling on the sugar on the table;

2) T-U-T/T-O-T – Typing under table/typing on table. The smartphones are out in force; it is not unusual to see laptops, netbooks or tablets out and being utilized as well;

3) Eyes looking up.  Eyes looking down;

4) Eyes looking everywhere but at the speaker.

So how do you effectively open a speech or presentation? 

There are a number of effective ways to open a speech or presentation.  Here are four:

1) A Quote – Name a topic, and more often than not there is a great quote or saying that suits your subject matter perfectly. An example – one that I often use to open a presentation dealing with public speaking:

 “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain

2) A “What If” Scenario – Drawing your audience into your presentation is important and doing it immediately works wonders.  Getting your audience thinking right away by painting a scenario is very effective. 

3) An “Imagine” Scenario – Same thought process.  Putting your audience members directly into the presentation by allowing each member to visualize a scenario is a great tool

4) A Question – Rhetorical or literal; When someone is posed with a question, whether an answer is called for or not, that person intuitively answers, even if just in his or her mind, and now that person is involved. 

I will be periodically adding more opening tips. Stay tuned…

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13 Responses to “How to Open a Speech or Presentation”

  1. Excellent information. I would love to hear your thoughts for best strategies on closings. Thanks Matt.

  2. Good Points, Matt.

    The Law of Primacy and Recency applies here.

    The First and Last things you say will be remembered by the audience. That’s why we need a Strong Opening and Strong Closing.

    Thanks for the Post!

  3. We have been trained as children to want a type of start to a speech that is not mentioned in your list…

    When I read my daughter a story, it begins always the same way.

    When a teacher reads a story to her class, it always begins the same way…

    “Once upon a time…”

    There is a business version of this start…

    Moment in time, situation, aha moment…

    “Three weeks ago i was at dinner with John and Mary. Over dessert, Mary said something to me that has changed the way I look at [topic of speech]…”

    Nothing gets a crowd leaning in than a simple story about everyday life.

  4. Another way to open a speech is to just dive right in to a story. No pleasantries, no introductions, just start telling a story. This immediately commands the audience’s attention.

  5. the advic eof starting the speech was great… really worked…thanks!!

  6. Great points……they were great help for me…thanx!!

  7. Great post. A strong start makes a strong presentation, and these are good ideas to get the show on the road

  8. that was the best thsnk you so much!

  9. it was very nice and a easy one for the students.thanks

  10. nice information matt i like so much..

  1. 3 Trackback(s)

  2. Beginning a Speech or Presentation - Four More Tips | Matt Eventoff
  3. Closing A Speech or Presentation, Part I | Matt Eventoff
  4. Public Speaking: Five Great Ways To End A Speech | Mr. Media Training

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