7 Ways to Begin Your Speech with a Bang

People listen to you with their eyes before you even begin to speak.

Yes, I meant to write that. People listen with all their other senses before you, as a speaker, even begin to talk.

People listen to you with their eyes before you even begin to speak. Click To Tweet

So how in the world do you have a chance to influence their opinion, if they’ve already formed it before you speak? The answer might surprise you.

Individuals with the most interest in your message, most likely cause you the least anxiety. The stress comes from those who critique your message before you even begin your speech. But don’t give up on them. You can effectively connect with these people too.

Let’s take a look at a few ways to immediately begin your speech and keep the attention of early adopters, late adopters, and the people who just sit on the fence.


7 ways to begin your speech with a bang!

1) Begin your speech with an attention grabber

Most people have heard an abundance of messages. Many people doubt that they will hear anything new.

Begin your speech with something that causes their head to look away from their phone, look up at you, and remember what you said.

2) Don’t apologize for your lack of preparation

This drives people crazy.

When you begin your speech by apologizing, you tell everyone present that their time doesn’t matter. You tell them that this speech or event never made it onto your priority list. Many will wonder if you wanted to attend the event at all. But none of those describe the worst message of all–that the audience doesn’t matter to you.

You may just want to show how much you care. You may want to smooth over the frustration that you expect them to have. But why create a self-fulfilling prophesy when you could instead flip expectations on their head?

I believe that the majority of people sitting in the audience think to themselves: “I’m so glad I’m not the one up there speaking today.” Your boldness got you onto the stage, and an audience expects a great message from you. Deliver it boldly. Don’t limp along.

3) Dive into a deep connection with the audience

If the audience cannot relate to you, they will never relate to your message.

Share a story. Invite everyone on a journey with you. Establish yourself as one of them.

If the audience cannot relate to you, they will never relate to your message. Click To Tweet

Connecting with your audience first will not only build rapport, but breakdown both the physical and (more importantly) mental obstacles between you and the audience.

Each person listening to you will always ask the question: “Can I relate to the speaker, his background, and the information presented?”

4) Always arm yourself with humor

During one of the first speeches I ever gave, I failed to notice that I never zipped my pants. It also went down in history as one of the most confusing speeches I ever gave.

The entire time I spoke, I could see people smiling, snickering, and giving me odd looks that I didn’t quite understand.  Little did I know that my wardrobe malfunction created the biggest problem for my speech. Yet, I took the opportunity to turn it around and make it part of the presentation.  For whatever reason, humor breaks down boundaries and creates a deeper connection with your audience.

I hope you never connect fully with the level of embarrassment I experienced that day. But I do hope that you can take opportunities to poke fun at yourself, tell a funny story, or share an enjoyable joke. It relaxes those who listen and prepares them for the words you plan to communicate.

5) Don’t spend five minutes thanking everyone

Please don’t read that statement and think “Wow. What an ungrateful person.” We should always practice gratefulness. But as speakers, we usually communicate our gratitude better through effective communication, not through a laundry list of thank yous.

When you begin your speech by thanking multiple people, your audience will flip a switch in their brain. That switch will tell them to check out of your speech until you stop introducing it and actually start delivering it. This creates a problem.

Some of these people will distract themselves with their cell phone and never fully re-engage with your message. Others will check out and not check back in until they missed not only the introduction, but also the first portion of your speech. The skeptical types in the room will ask themselves if you truly mean what you say or simply have chosen to waste their time and protect yourself by thanking everyone in the room.

I think the greatest way to demonstrate your respect and gratitude for those in the room will manifest itself in your unwavering commitment to deliver value in your message.

6) Prepare your technology far in advance

Some of the most seasoned communicators I know do more to execute their speech before they arrive on site than they do at the event. This sounds counterintuitive, so let me explain.

Before arriving or even committing to speak at an event, make sure to clarify what technology needs you have, what gadgets you will bring with you, and who can help rectify any technological hiccups while you speak. You will frustrate yourself, your audience, and the event organizers if the first 5 to 10 minutes of your speech involves a technological mishap.

When you approach your technological needs with careful, advanced planning, you reduce the variables that could occur at the event. Note: I did not say that you will eliminate variables…they will occur. But even if you didn’t cause the problem, inevitably the event planners and those at the event will direct their frustration towards you and your presentation.

Prepare for your technological needs in advance, so that you can begin your message with a bang. Prepare so well that you can easily begin your message well, even if all the technology fails.

I experienced the frustration of a complete technological meltdown about eight years ago. I’ll never forget that the presentation topic focused on “stress”. How fitting that as I began to speak about stress, my laptop crashed and the projector wouldn’t turn on. That day I learned a valuable lesson: Prepare well and ensure you can deliver your message, even if all technology fails. Otherwise, your audience will sit and talk amongst themselves and have a harder time re-engaging like mine did that day.

7) Memorize your introduction

Memorize the first 5 to 10 minutes of your speech. Doing so will equip you to begin your speech confidently, motivate the audience to engage deeply, and reduce your stress throughout the rest of the speech.

If you begin your speech by cultivating disinterest among your audience, regaining that interest can become an uphill battle for the duration of your time. If you start with the audience on the edge of their seat, the likelihood of keeping them with you for the remaining time increases.

Memorizing the introduction also creates a buffer for you in the event of a technological issue or another unexpected surprise.

As you look ahead to your next public speaking opportunity, what ways do you plan to begin your speech with a bang? Which of these tips will you apply to ensure you begin your speech strongly and manage the time you have to influence your audience?

This post is part of a series of posts on Public Speaking. Feel free to check out any post in the series.
1) Public Speaking Tips for Leaders
2) 10 Intentional Public Speaking Gestures
3) 10 Ways to Clarify Your Message As a Public Speaker
4) 5 Tips to Clarify Your Intended Result for Your Audience
5) 7 Ways to Begin Your Public Speech With a Bang
6) 7 Steps to Practice Beforehand as a Public Speaker
7) 10 Ways to Use Repetition in Public Speaking
8) 7 Step Process to Plan for Silence in Your Speaking
9) 5 Ways to Match the Message to a Mission
10) 10 Ways to Evaluate Your Public Speaking