When you’re speaking in front of an audience, grabbing attention is everything. That’s why you should start your speech in a powerful way. How do you start your speech in a powerful way? There are multiple ways. Here I will show you how to grab attention, and keep it while delivering your points to the audience. Let’s dive into the different ways that you can start off with vigor and oomph!
#1 – Start with a story.
Using stories will draw your audience into your story and captivate them from the start. As human beings, we are programmed to understand stories much better than we are at listening to facts being listed. Therefore, we are more perceptive to stories and, as such, you’re more likely to get your points across when you incorporate stories in your speech. And starting with one is sure to grab their attention from the get-go.
#2 – Use your outdoor voice.
People can’t really help but notice the guy making a ruckus center stage with his loud voice. Using your outdoor voice when you are inside will surely capture the attention of your audience. The trick here is to quickly jump on to your next interesting point to keep them engaged, or rather make a funny note about why you actually went with the loud, outdoor voice. This is kind of a brute-ish maneuver, but it has its uses. Use with care.
#3 – Flatter your audience.
Think every concert ever. Starting by flattering your audience builds a connection with the crowd and tells them you come in peace. Also, you are a pretty nice guy. Or girl.
Who doesn’t love a sincere compliment? Tell them you are glad to be here amongst the best in the business. Or perhaps “I love coming here, the audience is always very friendly and attentive!”, and you’ve framed the situation as well. Now they certainly don’t want to be unfriendly and unattentive, now do they?
#4 – Quote your way to attention-city.
Using a memorable, famous or inspirational quote to kick off your speech is a good way to capture attention. All the minds in the crowd will start to calculate, and you’ll see their eyes start to go into thinking mode: “Hmm, which quote is this, which is it…”. As you finish off you quote you will see either see smug faces of recognition from the ones that remembered the quote before you finished, or attentive faces from people who just learned a new quote.
#5 – Say something outrageous.
Whether you come up with an actual true and shocking fact, or simply make up something, retract it and say “that is actually not true, I just said that to get your attention, but now that I have it…”, it will be a powerful way to start your speech and grab attention.
#6 – Complete silence.
If you go up to speak in front of an audience, and you start off with a long silence while looking at the people in front of you, they will start to anticipate and await your start. It’s and effortless and seemingly simple way to start, but a very powerful one at that. Mentally, you will probably be itching to start, and the pressure from everyone just waiting for you will be tough, so appearances can be deceiving.
#7 – Tell a joke.
Telling a joke get the laughter going, if you get it right. Getting people to laugh is a surefire way to build a connection. Also, it makes them more open to what you have to say next. Poke fun at yourself, something that happened here the last time you were here or grab a good ol’ fashioned joke out of the joke-book.
#8 – Put forth a question and ask for a show of hands.
The reason this is great is rather simple when you think about it. You are activating and engaging your audience. They have to think and do something. Basically, you are making them invest in your speech, and people want to see their investments succeed.
#9 – Present a mystery.
I remember several lectures from one of the greatest college professors I had. He always did the same thing, and as a result, his students were glued to their seats. Every lecture he would stand up in front of the class and start presenting a mystery. Everyone wanted to know the answer and get closure to the mystery, so nobody left before class was over, and engagement was very high. During the class, he would ask questions to deepen the mystery and provide possible solutions. As we got towards the end of the class, he would start to close in on the solution and why it was so. It was the best class ever. The mysterious is a powerful tool in your public speaking toolbox, and as such, it is a powerful way to start your speech.
#10 – The personal touch.
Sometimes, your audience is too tired, too stressed, or too desensitized from hearing other speeches, to empathize with you. A great way to make them see you are human again, and hopefully one they can identify with, is by telling them a bit about yourself. Preferably something that relates to why you are speaking here today or to the topic at hand. It is also best if the part about yourself you are bringing to light is something your audience can see themselves in.
For example: “When I was in college I had to make worth of every penny and eat ramen noodles for breakfast, dinner and brunch, so I started looking at ways to get extra income”. Most people know the feeling of being in college, not having enough, or both at the same time. And so they will identify themselves with you, and feel a bit closer to you and what you have to say.
Start your speech with a personal touch to make your audience empathize with you from the get-go, and you will have them listening to your every word.
#11 – Label their problem.
Usually, you are giving a speech to solve a specific problem in some sort of way. You either seek to enlighten, entertain, convince or inform an audience about a topic. The audience has their own problems that they want to solve. Business leaders want to know how they can lead more effectively and drive revenue, while students may want to improve their writing abilities. Whatever the problem they may have, if you can solve it for them – they will listen.
Zone into what your audience cares about and has concrete problems with, and build your speech around this subject and come up with solutions, and new perspectives. If you can do that, you have substance for a another powerful start to your speech.
Start by describing and labeling their problem. Really try to go into their shoes and see it as they see it. The more you can describe their problem in detail, poke at it and say you have some solutions, the bigger their ears will grow.
#12 – Make your audience imagine things.
Just as telling stories is a powerful tool for speeches, and communication as a whole, telling people to imagine scenarios – use some of the magic dust that stories have in their nature. By tapping into people’s imagination you are practically telling them a short story, that isn’t necessarily true but conveys the message in just as powerful a way as a story. Or almost. I’m going with almost.
“Imagine a world where humans have stopped waging war between ourselves, and instead started exploring intergalactic space travel.”
#13 – State facts.
If you can come up with some good facts that build your problem or backs up your point, you can use them to get a powerful start to your speech. Start by mentioning 2 or 3 facts or statistics after each other, and use them to build your speech further. Most people will be wondering what the point behind the stats or facts you are using, will be.
#14 – Use a prop.
Using a prop can be an effective way to surprise and catch your audience off guard. It is also a visual piece that can be used to emphasize your point. As some people in the crowd may be more visual than sound-oriented, it may help them focus on your speech, as something visually stimulating is happening as well.
#15 – Lead with your conclusion.
Start with your conclusive statement and then use your speech to explain why it is so. Then you round back and end with the conclusion yet again. By repeating it there is a bigger probability you audience will remember the point you were trying to make. Also, this plays up to the earlier mentioned mystery-factor. By stating the conclusion first, there will be a certain mystery behind why and how this is your conclusion, and therefore your audience will be eagerly awaiting the answer.
#16 – Use a metaphor.
The metaphor can be somewhat of a double-edged sword. In the wrong hands, it can become a cliche or make things duller or awkward for the audience to listen to. In the right hands, on the other hand, we are talking rhetoric speech on steroids.
By pulling comparison to other known elements, we can use the associations and feelings towards these elements, towards the new element. This can actually make us “feel” something good or bad for something we have not experienced, by associating it with something known – that is good or bad.
“Cryptocurrency is a virus infecting the population”.
“Cryptocurrency is the salvation of our time.”
#Bonus – Don’t go meta. Whichever powerful start to your speech you choose, I highly suggest you go straight into it. Starting to explain or gently pre-introduce your introduction will silently and slowly kill your speech.
Don’t say: “Today I am going to tell you a story I heard the other day…”
Just start telling the story.