For most people, writing and delivering speeches is a daunting task. Thus capturing the
audience’s attention by making a strong opening remark is key to a successful speech.
There’s no denying the importance of your conduct during the speech, and the audience can drift off at any time, but how you start your speech will ultimately determine what they expect from you.
There are numerous instructions on how to ensure that your speech starts out strongly. There is no one style that works for all speeches, even though they may each be useful in different ways. Writing and delivering speeches is a skill that is eminently functional and cannot be developed through some examples
Here, I’ll be discussing 5 elements that, if mastered, will enable you to write a fantastic speech introduction that is both captivating and compelling.
1) Study your spectators
Let’s begin by talking about the basics you need to get right. The first one is to understand the audience. If you crack a joke referring to Harry Styles to an audience full of senior corporate managers, you might not get the same response you would from a university student cohort.
It is highly important to study the audience you are going to be addressing. You need to know what they expect out of you, and what their opinions are going to be coming into the speech. You also need to judge the mood of the topic before beginning the speech. You cannot be going into a somber educational speech by talking about your childhood trauma, nor can you begin a speech directly through academic research citations.
For example, a joke about the current political scenario and how it would affect the corporate world will get you in with the employees of an MNC, and rhetoric on pop culture trends might work much better with an informal audience.
Once you have your research in place, you can begin looking at the kind of opening you want to utilize. Now there are a lot of options that you have here that can be used
There’s the ever-famous and highly utilized option of humor. Make your audience laugh and they will have your attention. But this is also quite commonly used. Another option under humor that you can use is self-deprecation. Making a joke about yourself makes it seem like the audience can relate to you and don’t need to put you on a pedestal. Humor is a wonderful add-on that you can be using throughout the speech. This article on Humorous Speech Topic Ideas will help you make your speech more engaging.
For example, Vanessa Van Edwards ticked all of the boxes above with her opening saying – Hello I am Vanessa, and I am a recovering awkward person. Check out her speech here –
Next comes questioning. There are a couple of different ways you can question the audience to capture their attention. It can be something as simple as “How many of you have….?” or “Are you guys…?”. But it can be a rhetorical question as well such as “do you think apples are red or we’re all living a lie?” When the audience needs to answer something, you automatically have their attention.
Imagery is also a highly receptive tool. Imagery can be getting a prop that is relational to your speech and can be something as simple as your phone, it can be in terms of a presentation you show to the audience, or it can also be a performance you put up – such as singing and dancing. When you hold something or demand the audience to look at something, it becomes attention-grabbing and they start listening to everything you have to say. Here’s a guide on How to create Imagery when you Speak.
Another quite famous prompt used is a provocation. Also sometimes used via unpopular
opinions, which will perhaps go against the majority group’s opinion. If you provoke the audience, they have no option but to pay attention to what you have to say. If you start by saying pineapple on pizza is better, you better believe you’ll have the crowd’s attention.
Finally, another common prompt is storytelling. A personal anecdote goes a long way in
building rapport. Especially a story that is personal and would resonate with the public. A very good example of this is Chimamanda Adichie’s speech on the dangers of a single story. She builds a connection and then follows through with her speech.
Very often it is noticed that while opening a speech, orators forget to time the delivery of their statement. If you just go and speak without the appropriate pauses it would come off as being nervous. The dialogue would also fail in such cases, especially if it is humor based. It is often recommended that you use short bouts of silence to build suspense as well. It cannot be too long, but just enough to capture attention as well. In fact, here’s an article on 13 Public Speaking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Speeches need to be of an appropriate length to get the best response from the audience. The audience will not be listening to a long speech without zoning out. Thus, your openings need to be short and appealing. Check out this article on How To NOT Start A Speech (And What You Can Do Instead). You can’t go on and on about your opening statement without diving into the speech. Thus, the shorter the opener, even if it is a personal anecdote, the better the captivation.
5) Linguistics & Body Language
What happens a lot, is that orators try to use a lot of fancy languages right from the beginning of their speeches. If you start by using words the audience isn’t familiar with, it might seem like you’re being condescending. Thus, start with a language that you know is understandable to the audience and that will help you connect with them. Your research will also help you in how culture-specific you should be. Check out our youtube video on how to use body language to engage your listeners to understand this nuance better.
Writing opening statements is really not as daunting as you feel it would be. You need to
understand the nuances that come with it and understand what exactly it is that you are trying to deliver.
It’s highly crucial to nail the subtleties of a strong introduction. If mastered, the process of giving speeches doesn’t seem all that scary anymore. Also now that you’re on your path to mastering how to open your speeches, here is an article to help you with 15 Powerful Speech Ending Lines (And Tips To Create Your Own)