Great Opening Lines for Speeches or Presentations

Great Opening Lines for Speeches or Presentations

Melbourne Classical Radio They say that a speech opening line needs to be very gripping and outstanding. They say that you should start with something like a quote and bring a lot of energy on stage. But the truth is that a simple way to grab the audience's attention is to simply give them a reason to care about us and our idea.

If we can show that there's a disconnect in that current reality and offer them a solution to fix that. That's when they will welcome us with their attention from the opening line itself. And that's what we're going to discuss here today: "How to draft a speech opening line that the audience will actually care about and make them pay attention to?" We're going to go over a bunch of different methods and techniques that we can use within our introductions, along with specific examples from some of my favorite speeches and how we can incorporate them into our own talks. 

The first speech opening line that we can use to stir the audience's curiosity are provocative statements. Let's start off with an example by a TED Talk given by Larry Smith. His speech opening line was this: "I want to discuss with you this afternoon why you're going to fail to have a great career." Now, starting a speech with a statement like that immediately gets everyone's attention for good reason, of course.

And the reason for that is quite obvious! When we're intentionally trying to provoke the audience, we are essentially trying to show them that there's a disconnect in what they currently know, and we're probably going to offer them a solution to fix that disconnect, where we intentionally try to block somebody and tell them that everything you know about this particular thing is wrong, or it's a lie, it automatically creates that disconnect that we were talking about earlier. 

And Larry Smith used this opening line very cleverly because it evoked a sense of surprise and humor. But above all, of fear, in the audience.

And let me combine all these elements into just one or two sentences, it makes the audience want to know what's about to come next.

Just a tip to keep in mind, if you're planning to use up a provocative statement in your opening, make sure you stay in the statement and follow it up with a pause. Silence creates impact in your statement, it adds more emphasis to it and it lets the audience absorb your message a lot better. 

The next type of speech opening is imagination. We're going to use the example of Ric Elias' TED Talk. This is what his opening statement went like: "Imagine a big explosion as you climb through 3000 feet. Imagine a plane full of smoke. Imagine an engine going clack clack clack. Sounds scary. Well, I had a unique seat that day. I was sitting in 1B." When we use an imaginative speech opening, we're creating a different world for the audience.

You're inviting them to be a part of it and take them along for the rest of the journey, which is essentially for the rest of our speech. When Ric Elias used this particular line, it made the audience imagine themselves in that moment and it made the entire speech a lot more experience-driven. And if we want to incorporate imagination within our speech opening, the main thing that we need to keep in mind is detail! As much of detail as possible.

If we can draw out a picture vividly, the easier it is for the audience to imagine. We can also try and include sensory elements like audio, visuals on or even smells. The idea is to make the audience experience what you are going to as the speaker at that particular moment.

And once they're in that mode, it's a lot easier to take them along the rest of your speech. The next speech opening line is silence! Yeah! Here's an example, by Aaron Beverly in the International Speech Contest held by Toastmasters where he won second place, leave a lasting memory using as few words as possible and try with five, every fiber of your being.

To avoid being the type of person who rambles on and on with no end in sight, more likely than not causing more listeners to sit and think to themselves: "Oh my goodness. Can somebody please make this stop!" Aaron Beverly! "Be honest, you enjoyed that. Didn't you?" Silence works really well when we have a topic that is truly intriguing. 

So, if you want to use this, we need to ensure two things. One is of course that we have a topic that's unique and either it has the potential to make the audience laugh or shock them in some way. So, aiming for extreme, positive emotions or extreme negative emotions! And the second thing for this to work is to have somebody introduce us on stage. It's only when somebody actually mentions our name and our speech topic that we can come on stage and use silence as our opening. 

So if the circumstances allow for it, we can definitely use silence as an opening. It's really powerful, but I believe that silences should be used before the speech no matter what type of opening you have, it's always best to go on stage, stand there, breathe in the atmosphere. Let the applause died down. If any, and only then start speaking. It helps us start from a lot more grounded space, as opposed to just going on stage and starting off very frantically.

Next speech opening, use the build-up! Here's an example by Dan Pink: "I need to make a confession at the outset here. Little over 20 years ago, I did something that I regret, something that I'm not particularly proud of. Something that in many ways I wish no one would ever know. But that here, I feel kind of obliged to reveal." I feel while I explain myself, I think watching the example is good enough for you to understand why this speech opening works so well. 

And this makes me wonder why so many people open their speeches with a simple "Good morning" when they can use something like a buildup. Now, In theory, this particular opening is pretty simple to incorporate within a speech.

But the reason it becomes so powerful is when you share something that people, one thing, do not know about us and if we just give them a little bit of a precursor so they're dying to know what it is, even if they don't know who we are, and that can only happen if you're actually willing to share a deep, dark secret.

But if you do have that particular story and you are willing to share it. Add in words like, "I have a confession to make", or "This is something that I've not told anybody before. And I wish I never had to." 

And this particular framework is used in thriller movies or mystery movies very often as well where the beginning starts off with something that the audience is wondering what's happening but are still intrigued and once that particular scene takes place, we're dying to know what's about to come next, moving onto the next opening, the tried and tested, props! Here's an example by Eka Kris that made him win, I hope I'm pronouncing his name right, but it made him win the international speech contest at Toastmasters.

What? Oh, you think smoking kills? Now, of course, this guy's very clearly a master when it comes to public speaking. But if we want to try to use props within our opening, we need to keep two things in mind. First thing is to answer the question, how does the prop tie into our main message, if you were to see Eka Kris speech, he brings the prop back towards the end to complete his main message.

So that's the first question. And the second thing that we need to ask ourselves is how do we bring on a prop that is unusual. What I mean by this is that if we are giving a speech, let's say on the environment, it's very simple to get a prop like a plastic bottle or something like that. 

But it's only when the object we introduced on stage is unusual, makes the audience wonder why did he or she bring that particular thing on stage? It's

what grips that attention in an opening. Here's another example by an other Toastmasters, at the an international speech contest: Darren Tay! Look how he used this particular unusual prop.

"Hey loser. How do you like your new school uniform? I think it looks great on you. Those were the words of my high school bully, Greg Operfield, Now, if you're all wondering whether the underwear that Greg used was clean, I had to see question." And the next technique to open our speech is to use our whole body. Here's an example by Ramona J. Smith and the speech that made her the world champion of public speaking "Life. 

Well, sometimes feel like a fight. The punches, jabs and hooks will come in the form of challenges, obstacles, and failure." Using our entire body to open a speech is a cool thing to do, and it's pretty attention-grabbing. And I'm surprised that I don't see many speakers really use this method.

Now, when we talk about using our whole body, we're not talking about things like body language and posture and hand gestures, but talking about what Ramona did, using her body to convey a particular message through some sort of actions. If we have a speech opening that involves any verbs or any sports or anything of that nature.

We want to include a metaphor for our main message, which can be acted out, we should try that out and use our entire body within our introduction. The impact of this is very evident. If we take the example speech into account and just hear the audio, it's not really that gripping. 

It's only when she brings it into our body into the talk is when the opening becomes attention grabbing.

And the last opening line that we are going to cover here today is the most obvious way to stir your audience's curiosity are questions. Let's pick an example from one of my favorite TED Talks and I'm sure you might have seen this speech as well. 

Simon Sinek! "How do you explain when things don't go, as we assume or better, How do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions?" Now questions. 

Very simple thing to use for an opening, probably the most common thing that we see being used. But if you do want to use questions, we need to keep in mind that we're not asking something that's obvious in nature, I've seen so many speakers come on stage and ask a question like, "How many of you all you want to be successful?" It just sounds so cheesy. 

And as an audience member, I feel a little silly actually raising my hand for something so obvious! It's only when we ask a question that we know the audience most likely does not have the answer to is when we actually grip their attention.

And this falls back to us, understanding our audience very, very strongly. What are their goals? What are their painpoints? What are their challenges? What keeps them up at night? Once we know these things, we can craft a question that can truly intrigue them from the get-go and use the rest of our speech to offer them a solution for that particular question.

And that's about it. A bunch of speech opening line techniques that we can use and some of my favorite speeches and what makes their openings so intriguing.

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