Speech Content – Part #3 – Speech Opening
Make it Powerful!


We’ve all heard the expression,
“There’s only one chance to make a first impression!”

This is it!"No Sweat Public Speaking!" Confident Businessman

The Opening of Your Speech is your first impression to your audience.

It literally, ‘sets the stage’ for your presentation.

Very quickly, the audience is going to be on the edge of their seats, either breathlessly waiting for more, or, if your opening isn’t a great one, waiting for the moment when they can leave their seat and bolt for the exit!

Here are some things you might consider when developing the opening for your next presentation.

  • Paint a Word Picture Nophysical pictures equal what our minds can develop.
    • Example: “Picture this.  You’ve just taken your seat in English Class, and the professor says, “Class, clear your desks and take our a clean sheet of paper.” What are your thoughts?
  • Ask a Question This gets people thinking.
    • Example: “Raise your hand if you know anyone who’s ever been in a serous car accident.” (Bonus: If you raise your hand while asking a question, more people will raise their hands. Depending on the subject matter, this can make an important difference.)
  • Famous QuoteThe quote, and person quoted, should be relevant to your presentation.
    • Example: “Over 20 years ago, John F. Kennedy, in his inauguration address, told the American people, “Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.”
  • Today in History The historical event should be factual and relevant to your subject matter.
    • There are a number of excellent websites that provide this information, including events and the births of famous people.
      • Using a little creativity with this information can segue into your speech opening.
        • Example: “On this day in history, September 20th, 1519, Ferdinand Magellan, embarked from Spain on a voyage to circumnavigate the world.  Revamping this year’s strategic plan, and meeting new objectives, should be relatively easy compared to the obstacles those brave sailors faced.”
  • In This Morning’s New York Times (or Other Media.)A current event, if appropriate, can be part of the opening to your speech.
    • If print media, like a magazine or newspaper, the item can be used as a prop and held up to the audience as you speak.
      • Example: “I noticed in this morning’s paper there was another shooting in the city – and the victim was only 14 years old! When, when, when – are we going to seriously address the hand gun issue in this country?
  • Suspense / Surprise Build suspense with the audience. Then surprise them with a contrarystatement.
    • Example: “In preparing for this presentation over a two week period of time, I personally took over 200 pictures, picked the 15 best ones, cropped and edited them to get the exact content I needed to make my points today, loaded them into a power point presentation – and my hard drive promptly crashed!”
  • Use a Physical Prop or a Visual or Audio Effect This will get the attention of the audience.
    • Your opening statement should tie directly to what the audience just experienced.
      • Example: The shrill of the siren of an ambulance or blare of an air horn from a fire engine can be an effective way to open a speech on safety, as in, “Hear that sound?  An accident occurred, and someone’s life has changed – forever!”

Bonus Tips

  • Don’t start talking as soon as you’re introduced.  Pause – and count silently to 5.
    • The silence signals the audience to give you their attention.
  • Smile before speaking.
    • Unless your presentation is a somber one, smiling indicates you are confident, and ready to present!
  • Never, even if true, tell the audience you are not prepared for your presentation.
    • Statements like that are self destructive.  The audience will not expect much from you, and you’ll probably meet their low expectations.
  • If there’s humor in your opening, and it’s appropriate, and you can present it well – use it!
    • Good humor will put the audience, and you, at ease.

About the Author:
Fred E. Miller coaches, speaks and writes about Public Speaking and Presentation Skills.


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  2. Fred E. Miller says:


    Thanks for your very kind remarks! I’m glad you like what you’re reading.


  3. Buy Direct says:

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  4. Nicole Colon says:

    I’am trying to do a speech on My Expirience In ROTC So Far. I get what you wrote there but I still have know idea how to write my opening… Please can you help me.

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