People never forget the first impression you make. When making a lasting impression on the audience, the opening lines of the speech are what matters a lot. Creating excitement in the first few lines is what makes the audience stay hooked till the very end. The most excellent speakers make it a point to make the first impression necessary to grab their audience’s attention.
Before you speak, try to understand the audience, the theme and setting of the occasion.
If the audience is familiar or young, using informal language is admired. If it is the other way round, then a more formal language is necessary. Here are a few ideas which you can use as opening lines in the speech. The lines you use in the beginning can make a significant impact on the audience. Read till the very end and do not forget to take useful and informative ideas as a takeaway from the blog.
- Use a quote
Quotes from famous people can be excellent speech openers in cases where the quote is familiar to the subject of the speech. Quotes bring in some sense of authority in the speech.
Look at one such example -
Steve Jobs once said that "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people's thinking." Opening the speech with lines like these can be quite powerful and add credibility as a speaker. One can also quote recent events or research from any publication. It does not necessarily have to be a quote from a famous person. For instance, "According to Forbes, people who are knowledgeable about personal finance are wealthier."
- Reference to a well-known person
One can start the speech by telling an inspiring story of a well-known person. Usually, when one mentions the journey, struggles, and victories of a person who was once just an ordinary human like everyone else, it has a tremendous impact on the audience.
For example, “J. K Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, lost her mother when she was 25 and had just begun writing Harry Potter ..."
- Reference to some historical event
Our diverse historical events have given us a lot of exemplary instances that have helped us evolve and come a long way. Perhaps using some reference from historical events, especially in a cultural context, can be a good start for a speech.
- Tell a funny story or start with humorous lines
Everyone loves a good laugh. It instantly makes people feel good. Engage the audience with humor as it not only eases the air around but also energizes the listener. A surprisingly quick way to grab the audience’s attention is to open the speech with a funny story. Here is one example of a funny joke by a famous Comedian Ellen DeGeneres - “Life is short. If you doubt me, ask a butterfly. Their average life span is a mere five to fourteen days.”
“Life is short” sounds like a clichéd statement. Ellen, however, adds a funny element to the whole statement and makes it more refreshing. Now that is a solid example of how to use humor in public speaking.
- Start on a serious note
Not all events are funny or normal. When one wants to express a grave problem, one needs to use more powerful words as an opening statement. For instance, the climate change crisis became more noticeable when Greta Thunberg, an environmental activist, spoke at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit as follows- "This is all wrong. I should not be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope? How dare you!"
- Use a statistical fact
When one opens a speech with a statistical fact, it creates an impression that one has done good research and has valid information.
Besides, using statistical figures also helps in making the speech more memorable and less monotonous.For example, if one has to give a speech on “How to be a better speaker,” one can start the speech with well-researched facts about speaking such as this one- "According to studies, 61% of people are nervous before giving a presentation. Here is how you can..."
- Recall your story
Starting the speech with a personal story creates instant bonding with the audience. It builds the influence and piques up the curiosity to know more. It is one of the best ways to connect with the audience, and there are chances that the audience or the listener will take more interest in what one says, if they feel the inkling of similarity in the story.
For instance, one can always start the speech in such a manner by recalling one’s story -
"When I was 16, a high school student, my parents merely had the money to afford school, but I was a good student, I worked really…"
Make it a point to use your real-life stories to create interest and familiarity in the audience.
- Ask the audience to imagine
Asking the audience to imagine a particular scenario is an art of good storytelling. It also creates suspense(in a good way!) about what the speaker will say in the speech by helping them visualize the content in the speech. For example, "Imagine you get excellent grades and perform well at school, all because of the work you put in and follow a disciplined routine ..."
This statement will help the audience to visualize and connect with the context of the speech.
- Share an anecdote
Opening a speech with an impressive anecdote that illustrates the topic of the speech will serve as a great way to connect with the audience. While telling about the anecdote, one need not necessarily have to start the speech with "Let me tell you a story of a man who had no limbs, yet he ..." One can keep the narrative small and to the point of the topic.
A better way to start could be "In 1965, Joey was one of the first mountaineers with no limbs to conquer the summit of Mt. Everest... ". It gives more context just in the first two lines of the speech.
Opening the speech with relevant lines sets the flow and theme for the rest of the speech. Be more intentional and make the first impression necessary to create an impact on the audience. Because as the saying goes, the first impression is always the last impression. So, make your first impression the best impression.
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