How to Start A Speech That Engages Your Audience

how to start a speechMost speeches and presentations tend to start in the same, boring way. A person steps up to the podium, says hello, wishes everyone a good morning, afternoon, or evening, and expresses their delight with being there.

For modern audiences in today’s changing times, it is simply not enough. Most audience members make a decision whether or not to listen to a speaker in the first 5 minutes. Choosing the proper way to capture attention is the best way to learn how to start a speech. It can be easy. This course highlights the many ways you can make public speaking easy and memorable. There are many ways to begin a speech, but here are a few of the more interesting ways to engage your audience.

  • Tell an anecdote:  A story, case study, or personal anecdote is perhaps the single most effective tool for transferring information from speaker to audience. In fact, Harvard Professor Howard Gardner once said, “stories are the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”

A story can transmit many thoughts and feelings across to an audience and momentarily help them forget that they are at a speech. Personal stories work best, as they are from the heart. For example:

A man was presenting a proposal for a new marketing campaign for a health, fitness and lifestyle company. His name was Anthony and he started the speech with a story of his youth. As a child his parents did not cook. They lived off of a diet of frozen food and fast food. Their neighbors had a girl Anthony’s age and a son a year younger. Their neighbors cooked healthy and wholesome food for their children. One day, while in his final year of high school, he gathered the nerve to ask the girl out to their senior prom. She smiled, but said no. “She told me,” Anthony said, “that I was very nice, but she was holding off for someone else.” Anthony made a decision that day, he knew he was overweight, but he couldn’t help it, right? Wrong, Anthony made a decision and when he went away to college, he started working out at a gym and even got a job as a personal trainer. His diet changed and he almost only cooked from home. When he returned from college, his parents were blown away by his transformation. Anthony played a slide with his before and after picture. He lost 92 lbs and his complextion went from a pale, light complexion to a healthier shade. His neighbor, who didn’t want him for prom was awed by his changes and after 3 years of courtship they were married. It worked for Anthony, it can work for others.

Anthony’s proposal was accepted and he started his new career. Anecdotes and other powerful methods of storytelling can be one of the best ways to connect the speaker to the audience. When the audience is allowed to feel for the speaker, then essentially an audience will align itself with the speakers emotions.

  • A Shock and Awe Statistic: Nothing motivates a person like a statistic that will force you to take action. Statistics, when broken down properly can really scare a person. Statistics on 2012 show that 34,000 people died during the year of car accidents. That sounds bad, but condensed to deaths per minute it reads; Every 15 minutes someone is involved in a fatal car accident. During the time that I am giving this speech 2 people have lost their lives. When you think about all the work that goes into someone’s life, it is heart-breaking to know that car accidents end so many. While you’ve been reading this article a man, woman, or child has died. What can we do to prevent this? You now have their attention and can proceed to deliver your intended message.

Speaking in public is an art and like all art, it can be learned. In a wonderful instructional on the art of public speaking you can learn how to start a speech, how to deliver your message, and how to successfully close your speech leaving the audience feeling content and, more importantly, like helping.

  • Engage the Audience: Ask a question that requires and answer by show of hands, by standing, or sitting. This way people feel as they though are a part of your speech and reinforces their reason for being there. Asking a question that will not only cause audience participation, but will cause a response from most of your audience is key. Make your paper relevant. Ask a question like, “Please stand if you have been on a bus in the city.” This is a question that will engage the majority of the audience, but make sure the question is relevant to your speech and then move forward with your speech.
  • Ask a Rhetorical Question: When you ask a question that is not meant to be answered you make the audience think for themselves. That introspection, or self-reflection, will get the listeners thinking about your speech on a personal level. As you can imagine, the best way to begin a speech is by connecting your audience to yourself as the speaker.
  • Ask Your Audience Members Questions: Go to your audience members on a personal basis and ask a question directed to them: “Jim, how long have you been waiting for that promotion?” “Mike, what type of stories do your children like most?” Questioning a few audience members do wonders for the audience morale. The audience gets involved and feel a sense of anticipation. This will keep the audience awake and engaged.

This is just the beginning of public speaking and learning how to start a speech properly for success. Once you learn how to properly begin a speech and put it into practice with friends and family, you can learn to become better. If you want to learn more about public speaking you can follow this link to a course on mastering public speaking. The best parts of every speech are the beginning and the end. The most important, though, is the beginning. If you fail to engage your audience in the beginning, you will not have an audience by the end of your speech. For some quick tips you can learn from a professional public speaker who teaches the secret formula to successful speaking. Now that you have learned how to start a speech, you can get to work!