8 Powerful Ways to Start a Speech #87

Seasoned speakers know this all too well.

There’s only one moment during your ENTIRE presentation when you have a fully captive audience.

One moment.

And it’s the first few seconds you’re on stage.

As a Hall of Fame Speaker, I’m telling you: please do NOT squander this precious moment with a dull opening line.

(E.g. “It’s so great to be here with you today.”)

Instead, try one of these eight ideas to start your presentation with a bang.  

Speech Starter #1: Tell a Story 

When I look back on the countless speeches I’ve given, the ones that resonate the most begin with a narrative.

That said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to tell a story on stage.

The wrong way is to preface your story with a mundane “Let me tell you a story.”

The right way is to dive right into it: “The day I got my driver’s license…” Your goal is to immediately transport your audience to the scene by hooking their attention without a hint of effort.

This is the art of storytelling—no announcements, just pure engagement. 

Speech Starter #2: Do a Dramatic Gesture 

Take a page out of Ed Tate’s book, the master of dramatic entries, whose opening move in the World Championship of Public Speaking captured the audience without him murmuring a word.

(He pretended to be a police officer issuing a speeding ticket.)

By incorporating a physical gesture that complements your narrative, you engage the ears, eyes, and imagination of your audience. 

Speech Starter #3: Shock with a Statistic 

“74% of Americans trust individuals with established personal brands.”

Dropping a bombshell statistic as you start your talk sets the metaphorical stage for your expertise and the discourse that is to follow.

It primes your audience for a deep dive into why that statistic matters. 

Speech Starter #4: Make a Promise 

This is about setting expectations high right from the get-go.

(Then you must commit to meeting them!) Imagine telling your audience: “Today, I will show you how to increase your sales by 20%.”

Right away, you’ve promised to deliver value, ensuring your audience is glued to their seats, eager to learn how they can achieve 20% sales growth.  

Speech Starter #5: Ask a Provocative Question 

Engagement can start with a simple, perhaps rhetorical, question.

“Why do we even fear public speaking in the first place?”

A provocative question challenges your audience to engage with their internal dialogues, which paves the way for a speech that is as interactive as it is enlightening. 

Speech Starter #6: Say Something Funny 

Humor breaks barriers and lightens the air.

Jokes invite laughter and levity, creating a bond between the speaker and the audience.

In my talks, a little humor about my unlikely expertise in makeup thanks to my mom’s career in Mary Kay eases the audience into a more relaxed state where they’re open to new ideas. 

Speech Starter #7: Compliment the Audience 

Everyone appreciates recognition and genuine acknowledgment.

Complimenting the audience sincerely about their specific achievements or challenges signals empathy for their journey, their setbacks, and their victories.

A tactful compliment also shows appreciation for their efforts, making them more receptive to your message. 

Speech Starter #8: Customize Your Opening 

Tailoring your first words to the audience’s unique attributes or experiences shows an unparalleled level of care and respect for them.

This approach not only enhances the relevance of your speech but also boosts its impact, because you’re making the audience feel seen and heard. 

Return to these eight ideas next time you’re tempted to start your speech with “Thank you so much for having me today!” or “I’m so excited to be here with you!”

The eight ideas you just read are highly tactical but also cleverly strategic, as a well-crafted opening earns you your audience’s attention and only then can you make a meaningful impact.  

The success of your presentation often hinges on how you begin.

Choose your opening words wisely, rehearse it until it feels second nature, and watch as you transform any room from silent spectators to captivated participants.  

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