Thank you for that kind introduction…
That was really nice of you to ask me here today…
I also wanted to thank so-and-so and her staff and their staff and the secretary’s dog’s cousin’s uncle…
And of course this boring start to the most boring speech in the known universe wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t thank YOU for coming here today dearest audience…
This is the way it goes for most speakers. Niceties and how-do-you-do’s and blah blah and yadda yaddas. Awful. Boring. Predictable. You’re opening just like every other speaker the audience has ever heard. And because you sound just like everyone else, you must of course be saying exactly what everyone else is saying, therefore it’s perfectly acceptable if I tune out and take a mental nap, seeing as I’ve heard this same rhetoric time and time again.
DON’T BE… EVERYONE ELSE!
Starting a speech: First words count
Don’t start with words like these…
- Thank you so much, it’s a pleasure to be here
- I’m sorry, this isn’t going to take very long
- I was only asked last week / yesterday / 10 minutes ago to do this speech
- A funny thing happened to me whilst trying to find the venue…
This is your moment to shine, so shine from the get-go. To start your speech with power, find something unique, engaging and memorable to say. And make sure it’s a line that you’re 100% comfortable with, so your talk flies rather than sags from the beginning.
Here are some ideas from some of my favourite speech beginnings:
You might start your speech with a provocative question –
- “How do you explain why some people are able to achieve things that seem impossible?” – Simon Sinek, TEDx Talk
- “What do I know that would cause me, a reticent, Midwestern scientist, to get myself arrested in front of the White House protesting? And what would you do if you knew what I know?” – James Hansen, TED Talk
An amazing or shocking fact –
- “Sadly, in the next 18 minutes when I do our chat, four Americans that are alive will be dead from the food that they eat.” – Jamie Oliver, TED Talk
- “I’m talking to you about the worst form of human rights violation, the third-largest organized crime, a $10 billion industry. I’m talking to you about modern-day slavery.” Sunitha Krishnan, TED Talk
A joke –
- Good morning. How are you? It’s been great, hasn’t it? I’ve been blown away by the whole thing. In fact, I’m leaving. – Ken Robinson, TED Talk
- Okay, now I don’t want to alarm anybody in this room, but it’s just come to my attention that the person to your right is a liar. – Pamela Meyer, TED Talk
by evoking an image –
- “Imagine, if you will — a gift. I’d like for you to picture it in your mind. It’s not too big — about the size of a golf ball.” –Stacey Kramer TED Talk
- “Imagine a big explosion as you climb through 3,000 ft. Imagine a plane full of smoke. Imagine an engine going clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. It sounds scary. Well I had a unique seat that day. I was sitting in 1D.” – Ric Elias, TED Talk
All of these speech beginnings get the audience connected and ready to listen. And a great opening line allows you to settle into your speech so that you can shine.
Read more about juicy speech opening lines here.