8 Memorable Ways to Open a Speech or PresentationJuly 21, 2021
When it comes to a speech or presentation, the opening is just as important as the topic being discussed, as this is the first impression of your presentation. The audience’s experience in the opening will continue for the rest of the presentation. You want to begin every speech and presentation with the attention of the audience and the perception of confidence. If you maintain these throughout your speech or presentation, you have a much better chance of being memorable to the audience. Here are eight approaches you can use to make your opening more memorable.
1. Begin with a relevant quote.
A relevant quote is important. If it is someone the audience unlikely knows, there is a good chance the quote will miss the mark. Choosing a powerful quote that relates to your topic is only half the battle. Find a way to weave the quote directly into your presentation and make it unique. Have a powerful reason to make your opening a powerful quote.
2. Ask a question.
One of the best parts about asking a question is that it immediately engages the audience. Whether the question is rhetorical or requires participation is up to you, but make sure it is clear to the audience either way. You want them to be thinking about the question itself, not if they are supposed to be answering you. Be sure to pause after you ask any questions. The audience needs time to bake on it for a beat or two.
3. Present a scenario.
Another method for engaging the audience from the opening is to present a scenario. Both a “what if…” or “imagine…” scenario are great ways to get minds thinking. Make sure the scenario ties into your topic. Their focus may be on you when done. But when completely switching from an attention-grabbing scenario to an unrelated topic, you risk losing their attention in the confusion.
4. Reference a statistic.
The more current the statistic, the better. Just be sure to confirm your sources. Unless you are comparing a past and current statistic to focus on the difference. When you reference a statistic, be ready to answer why the statistic is relevant or important. You want to answer that before the audience gets to that awkward point and starts thinking about it.
5. Tell a story.
Stories are a standard opener and for a good reason. They are an easy way for both the presenter and the audience to relax and get comfortable while simultaneously being engaged. Make sure it is a clear and interesting story. And as always, it should relate to your topic in some way. Stories have more impact when you bring them into the experience of it. Use language like “we” or “us” or “you” to have maximum impact. For example, “I walked into a store and I noticed…” makes the audience the observer of your story. “As you walk into a store, you notice…” is experiential in nature.
6. Present a visual.
Bring a prop or a well-done PowerPoint up with you. These things complement the opening and reinforce ideas to the audience. Just make sure it is not too distracting. You want the audience to be grabbed by your visual and then focus on you. Therefore, hide the prop back under the lectern after the visual aid has served its purpose.
7. Humor in Presentations.
Humor is probably the most challenging opening to land on this list, but it has a great payoff. It is also one of the few that does not have to relate to your topic. The only humor you should avoid would be anything that is self-deprecating. It is essential to establish yourself as a confident and reliable individual, and these jokes work against that objective.
8. Silence in a Speech.
As odd as it may sound, silence can be a compelling opener. It builds a sort of momentum. The longer you remain silent, the more attention hinges on the first words you deliver. There is a threshold between making the audience curious and impatient, so the opening silence should probably not go longer than ten to fifteen seconds.