How To Start a Speech

So you want to know how to start a speech. Your introduction needs to accomplish three things.

When people ask how to start your speech, in public speaking vernacular, they are asking how to create an introduction.

How to start a speech is one of the speaker skills that every public speaker should master in order to attain speechmastery.

How to Start a Speech: The Three Keys

  • Grab the Audience Attention

  • Identify the Topic of Your Speech
  • Show Why It is Important to the Audience

Each of these three need to be incorporated in the introduction. Lets consider them individually.

How to Start a Speech: Arouse the Audience Attention

The speech introduction needs to arouse and capture the interest of the audience in the subject.

You can capture their attention by showing the audience what’s in it for them. Why is the subject of value to your audience? Why should they listen?

Sometimes the benefit is obvious by subject or title. It is still necessary to arouse interest. With the minds of those in your audience occupied by so many things, why should they give their valuable mind time to you the speaker?

The solution was well stated by Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, said, "The only way to influence someone is to find out what they want, and show them how to get it."

Did you notice that success lies in what others want? Success in persuasion lies in helping them with their ‘job to be done.’ Think of the human problems, desires, wants and needs—these are the jobs to be done by your audience. Let your audience know that you will be helping them with their problems.

How to Start a Speech: How Long to Capture Their Attention

On the average, the short term memory is about 20 seconds. That means you have 20 seconds to capture their attention in your speech introduction.

The reality: If you have a long rambling and run on sentence for an introduction, you Will lose them. Short, sweet, and mind capturing words need to be used. You only have 20 seconds. You get their attention in the first 20 seconds, you have 20 seconds more to keep it going.

So, get them involved on their level of thinking. Look at your speech introduction statements and break each section down to 15 - 20 second sentences. Does each sentence work toward capturing attention? Does it draw the audience into the next thought? Then collectively the introduction needs to capture the attention to listen to the talk.

One word of caution here. Be careful that what you say is not mental spam. First review the power words. Avoid making big benefit claims. Over a generation ago, when things were new and improved, it made sense to promote things that way. We have heard the words so often we turn on our spam filters and don’t listen.

If this was sent as an e-mail and had the word free, new or improved to many times it would get kicked out by your computer spam filter. Should our minds be any different?

How to Start a Speech: Identify the Theme

Your introduction should indicate the topic or theme of your speech. The theme should be woven into the speech from beginning to end. Including it in the introduction helps the audience mind to focus on the theme.

A great way to introduce a speech is to use a story that is wove through the speech. Stories create a greater challenge to introduce the topic of your speech. It is necessary none the less.

How to Start a Speech: Why is it Important

Adult learners have a need when it comes to learning. They need to know WIIFM or What Is In It For Them. The adult audience needs to know how the information will benefit them.

A second challenge with adult learners is maintaining their interest. When you give a talk you will notice some sit as far to the back as possible. Although this can be for numerous reasons, some will not want to be there. To be of benefit to them will require specific information that will answer questions they have and issues they face.

Beyond What’s In it for Them

Connect to the audience and surround the benefit with the proof. Make the claim bigger than the proof and always have them joined at the hips. This means for many speech introductions, the grand claims may need to wait till the body of the speech. Otherwise the spam filters will shut you out.

Providing the benefit / proof duo in the body rather than the speech introduction will give your speech added power. Used in the body where you have their attention it will cause them to have better retention. Suggest that the proof will be coming in the body.

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