The first 30 seconds of your speech or presentation are the most important. It can make or break your presentation.
For a strong opening, you can use:
1. Start with a story or anecdote
This is one of the most powerful methods. Just start telling the story and it will grab the attention of the audience. Nothing will get the audience than a simple story about everyday life. For example, Jesus was a master at beginning his teaching with parables (which are illustrative/allegorical stories). The best way to start a speech is with a story or anecdote that illustrates the topic. Stories also help us to remember the lesson taught.
As children, when we hear “Once upon a time…” it grabs our attention. We are trained to watch out for stories. As grownups, “once upon a time” wouldn’t work. There is grown up way of saying “once upon a time…” Start with time… just locate the time to the year or the month (if referring to the same year).
“When I was twelve, my grandmother and I took a journey by foot to go and visit one of my aunts. About halfway to our destination, she told me something that has transformed my life to this very day….”
For a company, the stories need to be about people. Don’t tell stories about products or things. It’s about the people who build them. If you want to tell a good story about Microsoft, don’t talk about the software, talk about the people who build the software—who they are, what they do, why they do what they do, what’s important to them, and what they sacrifice.
If you can tell stories and people can trust you, then they will listen to you. The information itself is all written down, anyone can give them the facts, and they can even read them. It’s about making them trust you to receive them from you.
2. Ask an open-ended question that matters to the audience
Phrase a problem that the audience faces in a question. When you ask a question, you draw your audience in. They will answer the question in their mind even if it was a rhetorical question. Now that person is involved. Don’t ask a yes or no questions. Make it an open-ended question.
3. Start with an “imagine” scenario
Ask your audience to imagine something. You can ask a series of “imagine” questions to make a point. Or tell them to think of something, pretend to be somewhere or imagine someone. This gets the audience to start thinking and visualizing a scenario. This would draw them in.
4. Start with a “what if” scenario
This is similar to the “imagine” scenario. It draws the audience into wondering.
5. Start with a bold statement
Another good way to start a speech is a bold statement.
6. Start with a shocking fact…
Start with a shocking fact that can be linked to the talk. Use Google to search for factoids. E.g. “There are more people alive today than have ever died…”
7.Start with a quote or documented fact
This is similar to the bold statement. However, this is a riskier way to start than the others. It can sound trite. Your fact must be shocking and defy common knowledge to be effective.
Your quote’s content, context, and the author must give credibility to your speech for it to work.
Start by sharing a testimony.
This is a success story, a story of transformation that demonstrates the power of something you are going to talk about.
With each speech, use each of these six methods to write an opening. Then choose the strongest one of them and use.
”It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain