Speech Openers: 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Starting a Speech or Presentation

Your name is called, and you begin making your way towards the front of the stage. You are well-prepared and assured in your ability to present your thoughts. You begin your speech by introducing yourself.

Hello, my name is Julie. I have come to speak about….

In no time, your audience looks bored. Everyone is looking down at their phones, oblivious to your presence.

This reaction is what you should expect if you begin speaking predictably. You must pique your audience’s curiosity to capture their attention. The first impression is the most important, regardless of how good your written speech is. The opening few words of your talk will determine how the rest of your speech is received.

Before we get into the best speech openers, let’s take a look at some of the worst ways to start a speech.

Speech Opener No-No’s

1. Listing technical issues.

“Am I audible?” is an infamous phrase that we have heard a lot. Although we cannot control every issue, we must arrive early and double-check everything before the actual speech begins.

2. Talking about your nervousness

“Oh wow, I am nervous to see this many people in front of me.” “Please bear with me; seeing so many people make me nervous.” These phrases are overused. People believe it is acceptable to mention your nervousness since it demonstrates your transparency.

We believe, however, that discussing your anxiety at the opening of your speech will cause your audience to look for hints of nervousness throughout the rest of your talk.

3. Giving a lukewarm thank you/welcome.

Saying, thanks for having me; I feel honored, in the most unenthusiastic way possible, sets the tone of your speech as boring. So stop faking niceness; if you wish to express gratitude to the host, do so enthusiastically!

4. An introduction of yourself.

“Before we get started, I’d like to tell you all a little about myself.” Nobody wants to know who you are or what you like to do in your spare time. Only if your personal narrative is relevant to your speech should you deviate from this rule. Then, you can provide a brief introduction only after you have delivered an amazing speech opener.

5. So…

Doesn’t this feel like a personal attack? Unfortunately, ‘so’ is one of those filler words that many professional presenters continue to use to this day. However, you should avoid this word because it is overused.

Best Speech Opening Ideas

1. Use Stories!

“Before I get started, I want to quickly share how I created and established my business. Would you guys like to know?”

Your opening tale can be a personal experience that ties into the rest of your presentation. You can also start your story with phrases like “Think of a time,” “Imagine,” and so on to take your listeners on a visualization journey.

Did you notice? This article’s opening lines made you imagine a scenario.

2. A fun fact or a situational joke.

Your fact or joke needs to appear spontaneous. However, you don’t need to think of a joke while on stage to make it natural. In fact, we strongly advise you to take some time before your speech to develop a pun that would be appropriate in that setting. This tip is great because it helps people loosen up.

3. Share similar pain points.

“Have you ever wondered why?” “Are you too tired of…?”

Begin your speech with these questions.

Remember: You need to be very sure of the solution you will provide after asking this question.

4. Who likes…? Who wants…?

Who hates long boring meetings? Who likes bonuses?

These quick questions are a fun way to begin your speech. Think of something related to your talk and pop multiple queries at the start.

5. Powerful PAUSE!

A pause is unpredictable; hence it is an excellent speech opener. Your audience expects you to talk straight away, but take the time to look around and see who is there. This small act of pausing for a few seconds leaves a significant impact. Furthermore, you want to give your audience time to process what the prior presenter has said.

Bonus Ideas

• Make use of props. It makes for a visually appealing start.

• Begin with surprising statistics or data.

• Talk about a current event that everyone is aware of.

• Congratulate your audience. “You are among the top 20 contestants who have qualified for the final round,” for example.

These tips will help you evoke the desired response from your audience and connect with them right off the bat. Let us and our fellow readers know if you know more speech openers that have worked well for you.

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