How to start a speech in 8 powerful ways

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Even after spending hours preparing and practicing your presentation speech, the first few moments on stage are what truly sets the tone of your presentation. When it’s time to deliver your speech, you only have a 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 8 powerful tips.

If you’re interested in learning how to start a virtual presentation, watch a 5-minute video on 5 highly effective public speaking techniques:

1. Start your presentation speech with a strong emotion

Strong emotions can capture the attention of your audience and set up an interesting discussion. Use strong words such as “hate,” “love,” and “worst.” For example, when delivering a speech on teamwork, 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. This will help them focus on your message.

2. Refer to current or historical events

Tying your message to current or historical events can help you start a presentation 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. However, 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. 

Man uses props and a presentation to support his speech

3. Start with a shocking statistic

Quantifying your content with a stark statistic can help you establish immediate credibility and 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. However, if you state that it’s a 100% improvement over last year’s efforts, this context will accentuate your message.

To really drive the point home, use data visuals or visual metaphors to illustrate the stats. With Prezi Design, you can create captivating slides, infographics, and more to accompany your presentation. Plus, the easy-to-use templates will help you visualize any data-rich content the right way.

4. Use an anecdote

One of the most effective ways to capture your audience’s attention is by starting your presentation with a story, personal anecdote, or case study. While your story can be about an event (see #2 above), personal stories are better at humanizing your message and making your audience more invested in what you have to say. 

Before you include a story, first think about the goal of 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
Grab their attention by making your presentation more interactive

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 the mic, then ask one or two individuals in the audience to share. Motivating people to share personal stories or experiences with others creates a sense of community. As a result, your speech resonates with the feeling of togetherness and leaves everyone feeling more connected to you and your message.

The best presentations are interactive and conversational as if you’re chatting over a cup of coffee. As you speak, change the 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.” 

By introducing the problem first, your audience will have a clear understanding of what your speech is going to be about. Also, this will incite curiosity to find out what is your take on the issue or if you have a solution that can help solve it.

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. The same applies to online presentations. Don’t hide behind slides when presenting important statistics or eye-catching visuals. In a few easy clicks, incorporate Prezi Video into your Zoom calls and take your content with you on screen. By simply removing the barrier between you and your listeners, you can get them more involved and invested in what you have to say.

8. Start with a “what if” scenario

Imagination helps us visualize different situations. It also allows us to explore our own thoughts and opinions. Starting your speech off with a “what if” scenario quickly brings the audience into your story world, and makes it easier for them to visualize and connect with your message.

For example, if you want to discuss career choices, try starting your presentation speech off by saying, “what if money didn’t matter?” You can follow up by asking a more direct question, such as, “what kind of a job would you like to have?”

“What if” scenarios and other questions that evoke imagination are great openings that make it clear what your speech is going to be about. However, make sure that these scenarios are tailored for your audience and are not too specific.

If you’re interested in learning more about public speaking and different techniques that can help you build confidence on stage, check out Jessica Chen’s tips on public speaking:

When preparing for your next presentation speech, 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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