Have you ever started reading a book, and found it tough to continue reading because the first few pages didn’t grab your attention? Or have you watched a movie that just dragggggged in the beginning? Both situations are painful to endure! Imagine how an audience feels when listening to a speech or presentation that is off to an uninspired start. It’s HARD to stay focused on what the speaker is saying if the beginning doesn’t pique your interest right away.
Before we talk about the best ways to start, let’s talk about what NOT to do. Does any of this sound familiar…
“Thank you, thank you for having me!”
“I’m so glad to be here.”
“Wow, I’m so honored to be speaking today.”
Chances are you’ve heard a speaker start off with one of these lines at some point in your life. It’s not that they’re horrible beginnings to a speech, but they sure are BORING. And your first few precious seconds with an audience are critical! Within 7 seconds, they will decide if they like you, and within about 30 seconds they’ll decide if they want to keep listening. So time is of the essence!
Here are three of the best ways to start your speech with a bang:
A Powerful Question
Asking the audience a question is probably the most-often used technique by many speakers. And for good reason. It’s a great way to engage your audience, as it provokes them to think. Questions usually fall in the rhetorical and direct categories. With a rhetorical question, you don’t actually expect an answer from the audience. It’s more so meant to emphasize a point. For example, if you were speaking to a group of stressed-out caretakers about the importance of personal wellness, you might ask: Wouldn’t it be great if you had more time to just enjoy yourself? What if everyday didn’t feel like a chore, and instead you woke up feeling excited about life? I bet you’d see the caretakers pondering these questions for a few moments. A direct question, on the other hand, is one where you are trying to elicit an answer from the audience. Research shows that our brains are hard-wired to come up with answers to questions, so ask away!
A Jarring Statistic
90% of speakers who use a startling statistic at the start of their speeches will command an audience’s attention right away. Eye-opening, right?? Well, I made that up just to show you how the right statistic will make eyebrows raise. Notice I said the right statistic. You don’t want to use one that has been repeated a hundred times, or that is not shocking at all. Select a statistic that will give them pause. That will make people think “Wow! Really?.” That’s how you get their attention.
A Personal Story
Who doesn’t love a story?? Personal stories have the power to effectively convey information. There’s less of a chance for someone to forget your point or lesson if it’s wrapped within a story, versus a fact standing on its own. That’s because science shows that we remember images better than facts, and stories do just that – create mental images for us. Stories also help connect us to the audience better because they can show a vulnerable side of us. A human side of us that has flaws, just like them. Audiences like being able to relate to the speaker, which helps endear them to you. Just make sure you’re telling your own story instead of one you read somewhere. You don’t want to hurt your credibility!
How you begin your speech sets the tone for the rest of your performance. It is your audience’s first impression of you. Don’t underestimate the importance of those first few moments to captivate the crowd. Always start with a bang!
Do you need help with starting your speech or presentation in an unexpected way? Contact Roquita today to get started.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- 1 Peter 4:10-11
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