15 Ways to Start a Speech + Bonus Tips
You have heard the saying “First impressions are lasting; you never get a second chance to create a good first impression.”
The same is true when talking about how to start a speech…
The truth is, when you start your speech, you must focus everything on making a positive first impression on your audience members.
Here are 15 different ways to start a speech as well as 2 extra BONUS tips at the end.
1) Thank the Organizers and Audience
You can start by thanking the audience for coming and thanking the organization for inviting you to speak.
Refer to the person who introduced you or to one or more of the senior people in the organization in the audience.
This compliments them, makes the feel proud and happy about your presence, and connects you to the audience like an electrical plug in a socket.
2) Start With a Positive Statement
You can begin by telling the audience members how much they will like and enjoy what you have to say.
For example, you might say:
“You’re really going to enjoy the time we spend together this evening. I’m going to share with you some of the most important ideas that have ever been discovered in this area.”
Remember that speaking is an art, so be an artist and take complete control of your performance,
3) Compliment the Audience
You can begin by complimenting the audience members sincerely and with great respect.
Smile as if you are really glad to see them as if they are all old friends of yours that you have not seen for quite a while.
You can tell them that it is a great honor for you to be here, that they are some of the most important people in this business or industry, and that you are looking forward to sharing some key ideas with them.
You could say something like:
“It is an honor to be here with you today. You are the elite, the top 10 percent of people in this industry. Only the very best people in any field will take the time and make the sacrifice to come so far for a conference like this.”
4) Start Your Speech By Referring to Current Events
Use a current event front-page news story to transition into your subject and to illustrate or prove your point. You can bring a copy of the newspaper and hold it up as you refer to it in your introduction.
This visual image of you holding the paper and reciting or reading a key point rivets the audience’s attention and causes people to lean forward to hear what you have to say.
5) Refer to a Historical Event
For many years, I studied military history…
Especially the lives and campaigns of the great generals and the decisive battles they won. One of my favorites was Alexander the Great.
One day, I was asked to give a talk on leadership principles to a roomful of managers for a Fortune 500 company.
I decided that the campaign of Alexander the Great against Darius of Persia would make an excellent story that would illustrate the leadership qualities of one of the great commanders in history.
I opened my talk with these words:
“Once upon a time there was a young man named Alex who grew up in a poor country. But Alex was a little bit ambitious. From an early age, he decided that he wanted to conquer the entire known world. But there was a small problem. Most of the known world was under the control of a huge multinational called the Persian Empire, headed by King Darius II. To fulfill his ambition, Alex was going to have to take the market share away from the market leader, who was very determined to hold on to it.
This is the same situation that exists between you and your major competitors in the market today. You are going to have to use all your leadership skills to win the great marketing battles of the future.”
6) Refer to a Well Known Person
You can start by quoting a well-known person or publication that recently made an important statement.
One of the subjects I touch upon regularly is the importance of continual personal development.
I will say something like, “In the twenty-first century, knowledge and know-how are the keys to success. As basketball coach Pat Riley said, ‘If you are not getting better, you are getting worse.’”
7) Refer to a Recent Conversation
Start by telling a story about a recent conversation with someone in attendance.
For instance, I might say, “A few minutes ago, I was taking with Tom Robinson in the lobby. He told me that this is one of the very best times to be working in this industry, and I agree.”
8) Make a Shocking Statement
You can start your talk by making a shocking statement of some kind.
For example, you might say something like:
“According to a recent study, there will be more change, more competition, and more opportunities in this industry in the next year than ever before. And 72 percent of the people in this room will be doing something different within two years if they do not rapidly adapt top these changes.”
Click here If you want to learn more techniques to wow your audience.
9) Quote From Recent Research
You can start by quoting a recent research report.
One example is:
“According to a story in a recent issue of Businessweek, there were almost 10,000,000 millionaires in America in 2013, most of them self-made.”
10) Start Your Speech By Giving Them Hope
The French philosopher Gustav Le Bon once wrote, “The only religion of mankind is, and always has been hope.”
When you speak effectively, you give people hope of some kind.
Remember, the ultimate purpose of speaking is to inspire people to do things that they would not have done in the absence of your comments.
Everything you say should relate to the actions you want people to take and the reasons that they should take those actions.
11) Be Entertaining
Bill Gove used to walk onto the stage after his introduction if he had just finished talking to someone on the side and was breaking off to give his talk to the group.
The audience got the feeling that his entire talk was one continuous conversation.
Bill would often go to the edge of the stage and then drop his voice in a conspiratorial way, open his arms, and beckon the audience members to come a little closer.
He would say, “Come here, let me tell you something,” and then he would wave them forward as though he was about to tell a secret to the entire room.
The amazing thing was that everyone in the room would lean forward to hear this “secret” that he was about to share. People would all suddenly realize what they were doing and break out in laughter. It was a wonderful device to get the audience into the palm of his hands.
12) Ask a Question
You can open by making a positive statement and then ask a question requiring a show of hands.
Try something like this:
“This is a great time to be alive and in business in America. By the way how many people here are self-employed?”
When I asked the crowd this question at a recent speech.
Raise your hand to indicate what you want people to do. I have used this line, and after a number of hands go up, I then say to someone who raised their hand in the front, “How many people here are really self-employed?”
Invariably, someone will say, “We all are!”
I then compliment and affirm the answer:
“You’re right! We are all self-employed, from the time we take our first jobs to the day that we retire; we all work for ourselves, no matter who signs our paychecks.”
13) Open With a Problem
You can start with a problem that must be solved. If it is a problem that almost everyone has in common, you will immediately have the audience’s complete and undivided attention.
For example, you could say:
“Fully 63 percent of baby boomers are moving toward retirement without enough money put aside to provide for themselves for as long as they are going to live. We must address this problem and take action immediately to ensure that each person who retires will be able to live comfortably for the rest of his or her natural life.”
14) Make a Strong Statement, Then Ask a Question
You can start by making a strong statement and then ask a question. You then follow with an answer and ask another question. This gets people immediately involved and listening to your every word.
Here’s an example:
“Twenty percent of the people in our society make 80 percent of the money. Are you a member of the top 20 percent? If not, would you like to join the top 20 percent or even the top 10 percent? Well, in the next few minutes, I am going to give you some ideas to help you become some of the highest-paid people in our society. Would that be a good goal for our time together today?”
15) Tell a Story
You can start your talk with a story. Some of the most powerful words grab the complete attention of the audience are, “Once upon a time…”
From infancy and early childhood, people love stories of any kind. When you start off with the words, “Once upon a time…” you tell the audience that a story is coming. People immediately settle down, become quiet, and lean forward like kids around a campfire.
When I conduct full-day seminars and I want to bring people back to their seats after a break, I will say loudly, “Once upon a time there was a man, right here in this city…”
As soon as I say these words, people hurry back to their seats and begin to listen attentively to the rest of the story.
The story technique is very effective.
In fact, its probably one of the best public speaking tips I’ve learned to this day.
Bonus Tip: Tell Them About Yourself
Very often, I will start a speech to a business, sales, or entrepreneurial group by saying, “I started off without graduating from high school. My family had no money. Everything I accomplished in life I had to do on my own with very little help from anyone else.”
It is amazing how many people come up to me after a talk that began with those words and tells me that was their experience as well.
They tell me that they could immediately identify with me because they too had started with poor grades and limited funds, as most people do. As a result, they were open to the rest of my talk, even a full-day seminar, and felt that everything I said was more valid and authentic than if I had been a person who started off with a successful background.
Building a bridge like this is very helpful in bringing the audience onto your side.
Bonus Tip: Get Them Talking to One Another
You can ask people to turn to the person next to them to discuss a particular point.
For instance, you could say:
“Tell the person next to you what you would like to learn from this seminar.”
Whatever you ask your audience members to do, within reason, they will do it for you. Your commands and your leadership will easily influence them, as long as you ask them with confidence.
By following any one of these tips for starting your speech, you are sure to grab your audience’s attention every time.
For more of my best tips, blogs, and videos for speakers, visit my public speaking resource page.
How do you start a speech? Let me know in the comments.
If you want to create a stellar ending to your speech take a look at my blog “9 Tips to End a Speech With a Bang.”
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.