How to start a speech in 7 powerful ways

Even after spending hours preparing and practicing your speech, when it comes time to stand in front of your audience and deliver, you only have the next few seconds to establish command of the room and build rapport. Learn how to start a speech and make a great impression on your audience using these 7 powerful tips.

1. Start with a strong emotion

Strong emotions, whether positive or negative, can capture the attention of your audience and set up the discussion in an interesting way. Use strong words such as “hate,” “love,” and “worst.” For example, when delivering a speech on teamwork, you could start by saying this: “What I love about emperor penguins is that they know how to take a hit for the team. They show a ferocious, ambitious, and territorial attitude in the worst weather conditions by taking their turn to fight the elements for their team.” 

Your goal is to get a reaction from your audience at the start of your speech, which will get them to focus on your message.

2. Refer to current or historical events

Tying your message to current or historical events can help you start a speech in an immediately relatable way. Try drawing parallels between well-known events and your content. This will familiarize the audience with your topic without extra preamble. Use relevant images and videos in your presentation, and take advantage of Prezi’s zoom animations to help your audience visualize the way they’re connected. Just be mindful when choosing a current event to reference — beyond making sure it’s relevant to your content, you should generally avoid polarizing subjects such as politics. 

3. Start with a shocking statistic

Quantifying your content with a stark statistic can help you establish immediate credibility and also make your message feel more real. For this to be effective, though, you need to choose a number that’s actually impressive. Saying that a campaign drove 10% retention may not sound great by itself, but if it’s a 100% improvement over last year’s efforts, then add that context to help the audience understand the significance. 

To really drive the point home, use data visuals or visual metaphors to illustrate the stats. 

Man uses props and a presentation to support his speech

4. Use an anecdote

Starting a speech with a story, personal anecdote, or case study are some of the most effective ways to capture your audience’s attention. While your story can be around an event (see #2 above), personal stories are better at humanizing your message and helping your audience become more invested in what you have to say. 

Grab their attention by making your presentation more interactive

Before you include a story, first think about your goal with your speech. What emotion do you want to elicit from your audience? Find the appropriate anecdote to share, and then work on delivering it with the right pacing and tone. Storytelling can be one of the best ways to inform and inspire others, so learn how to incorporate compelling storytelling to make your message more memorable. 

5. Involve your audience

Engaged audience raises hands

A great way to get the attention of your audience is to involve them right away. One method is to speak with, not to, your audience. Asking questions at the beginning of your speech creates audience participation right from the start. They’ll feel like they’re part of the presentation, and you’ll also better understand your audience in turn. For example, during a media training speech, ask people to think of their biggest fear when being interviewed on camera or on mic, then ask one or two individuals in the audience to share. 

The best presentations are interactive, as if you’re chatting with your audience over a cup of coffee. As you speak, change your tone, speed, and pitch of your voice. Prezi’s open, conversational presentation format allows you to quickly maneuver between topics depending on the feedback from your audience and the flow of the conversation.

Another way to involve your audience is to ask for a show of hands. This is a great way to show everyone how their answers compare to their peers’. For example, for a training workshop, you could start by asking, “How many of you love public speaking?” You’ll most likely see very few raised hands, which can be a good kicking off point for the rest of your content. 

6. Introduce a problem

Figuring out how to start a speech doesn’t have to be complex – even something as simple as introducing the problem you want to solve can be effective. Choose a problem that most of your audience shares to really capture their attention. For example, you could start by saying, “x percent of Baby Boomers don’t have sufficient retirement money put aside to sustain them for the rest of their lives. We need to address this problem and take action to make sure that everyone who retires can continue living comfortably.” 

7. Use your body language 

Woman delivers speech in front of crowd

Your body language plays an important role in entertaining and captivating your audience. Don’t just stand behind the podium or stare at the screen. Show off your passion by commanding the stage and moving around with confident body language. You can even start your speech by walking into the audience. By removing the barrier between you and your listeners, they’ll pay closer attention to what you’re saying.

When preparing for your next presentation, be sure to apply these 8 tips on how to start a speech in a powerful and confident way. Then, incorporate that into your content by using Prezi to design, build, and deliver a more compelling presentation. 

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