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

This is, I believe, 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 by using 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 down 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. What she said has kept me thinking years after her death. It has impacted every dimension of my life. What she said has made me who I am today. It has impacted the way I raise my children, how I care for my patients, it has touched everything about me.

Even before I tell you what my grandmother said to me, you need to understand the circumstances I was in…”

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, especially personal stories, 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.

You need a story for every single major point you want to make if you want people to remember it. It doesn’t have to be a grand story. Personal stories are the best. But stories don’t have to be personal. A great communicator like Jesus of Nazareth told stories that weren’t about his personal life all the time. The result, his audience was “amazed at his teaching.”

To watch an example of a great speech where stories were told to illustrate each point, watch Chimamanda Ngozi’s TED talk on the Power of a Single Story.

2. Ask an open-ended question that matters to the audience

Phrase a problem that the audience is facing in the form of 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 powerful or bold statement.

6. Start with a shocking fact or statistic

Start with a shocking fact that is pertinent to the topic of 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

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.

BONUS METHOD

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

 

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