Boss Lady

5 powerful ways to open a speech or presentation


They say that first impressions count for everything, and that’s especially true in the context of important speeches or presentations. The first 30 seconds is all you have to make a lasting impression, setting the tone for what’s to come. If you want your listeners to remain engaged and compelled by what you’re telling them, you need to hook them in from the beginning.

1. Catch your listeners off guard

[tweet_quote hashtags=”#presentation” ]When you step up to deliver your presentation[/tweet_quote], they’re expecting a series of pleasantries and an introduction that provides general information. While this information is necessary, it’s also boring. Instead of leading with that foot, knock them out of their seats. If you are presenting on a particular issue, use your introduction to make a statement or present some striking facts and statistics to highlight the topic.

2. Make the crowd laugh

If your presentation or speech is about something lighthearted, there’s no reason you can’t use humor to get your point across. If you plan to pepper some humor into your content, let them know from the beginning. They’ll be excited to hear everything you have to say. While sarcasm and mean spirited humor may draw people away, relevant jokes or funny quotes that pertain to the subject will help you set the right mood.

3. Engage their imaginations

[tweet_quote hashtags=”#presenting” ]The quickest way to get someone’s attention[/tweet_quote] is to ask them to do something. Rather than being a mere group of listeners, your audience becomes a collective of participants when you require something of them. If you’re about to expose them to a proposed innovation or a new way of looking at things, start by asking them to imagine it. They’ll quickly become invested, because their mind started exploring the possibilities before you presented them with ideas on how to turn those possibilities into a reality.

4. Challenge them intellectually

If you’re speaking on a complex issue that you’ve thoroughly investigated, ask questions that inform your audience that you know something they don’t. Whether these questions are direct and answerable, or abstract and rhetorical, you’ll get their gears turning. Start them off with a riddle that you’ll solve throughout your speech. Give them half the information they need, and save the punchline or resolution for the end.

5. Let them get to know you

If you’re just a person standing on a stage or at a podium, it can be hard for your audience to connect with you. Who are you, and why are you relevant? They know your name, where you work, and a little bit about your education. Other than that, you could be any random person off the street. Telling them a little more about yourself can help them connect with you on a personal level. You’ll increase their empathy if they find you relatable, and they’re more likely to understand your perspective on things.

As a general rule, it helps to create an introduction that you can seamlessly wrap back around to your conclusion. Your starting and ending notes need to be strong if you want your efforts to be memorable. Once you have your introduction, the rest is easy enough. Start from a strong foundation, and keep your momentum.

About Tess Pajaron

With a background in business administration and management, Tess Pajaron currently works at leading online educator Open Colleges. She likes to cover stories in careers and marketing.

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