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How to Open a Speech with Impact

By Dave Gilman

 

Ask any professional speaker what his or her experience has taught them, and most will respond, “To get an arresting opening, something that will seize the attention immediately.”

Here are five examples of how you can open your speeches more effectively, one that will seize the attention of your listeners immediately.

Number 1. Ask a Question

A few years ago, we heard Toastmaster’s member Ken Jacobs open a speech by stating “I’m going to begin by asking you to reflect on a question: “If a decision had to be made about you, would you have it made by a machine or a person?” Opening with a question works instantly with an audience, and in Ken’s instance he even got every person in the room involved. He got us thinking, he got us involved at the outset.

Number 2. Begin With a Story

I will give you an example “Last summer I traveled to India. It was during this trip that my life was changed forever.” Who would not want to know more? From ancient times to today people love to hear stories. We want to know what is going to happen next. We get pulled in.

Number 3. Present Shocking Facts or Statistics

To be an effective speaker you must demand attention immediately. This can be achieved by stating a shocking fact such as: “Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs. Don’t worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” It is at this point you could then go into your speech, that supports your shocking fact or statistic.

Number 4. Arouse Curiosity

A good example is “Eighty-two years ago, and just about this time of the year, there was published in London a little volume, a story, which was destined to become immortal. Many have called it the greatest little book in the world.” It is after these two first sentences that you draw in your listener, arouse curiosity, and hold them in suspense. At the outset they may be wondering what is this book? Where can I get it? What is it all about? And your listeners will be seated at the edge of their seat wanting to hear more. Who isn’t susceptible to curiosity?

Number 5. Use a Quotation

Here is an example “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” This was stated by Joseph Campbell an American mythology professor, writer, and orator best known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion. By opening with an effective quote, your audience will pay attention.

In summary, the five possible ways that you can open your next speech is:

1. Ask a Question

2. Begin With a Story

3. Present Shocking Facts or Statistics

4. Arouse Curiosity

5. Use a Quotation

Remember, a good opening in a speech will jar us out of our daydreams, seize the moment, and hooks the attention of your listeners.

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