Houston, We Have Ignition! – Openings Count…

Outstanding Speech Openings!

Your Showroom – Your Best Outfit – Your Front Entrance – Your First Impression

Impressive Openings like impressive doors
Small hinges swing big doors

Compelling Speech Openings are your doorway to bringing your audience with you. A great speech opening is an introduction to something better. The start of something big.

You have micro seconds to create the impression with your audience you want . Develop engagement into a relationship of trust, so that they buy your message.

Have you power enough in your openings to open the doors for your audience? Welcome them into your world of excitement, change, information, persuasion, entertainment or whatever your specific purpose is?

Small hinges swing big doors. Observe and try some of these small techniques to achieve your goals.

Favourite Opener

Is a story. A story that has relevance or an analogy based on your message.  Aside from those requirements there are several elements that I like to incorporate into the story/openings.

  • Ensure your content is relevant, conversational stories that are relevant and have some curiosity, drama or suspense to them to capture the individual.
  • Make sure the language you use throughout the whole of your openings is “you” focused
  • Use strong vocal, facial and body language emphasis to sell/tell your story where appropriate
  • Where applicable have a prop to support your opening and possibly your closing
  • Begin in silence – use what is called the power pause to demand attention from your audience
  • Evoke as many of the senses as possible- smell, sight, hearing, taste & feeling  within your opening
  • Introduce an emotional component where you can
  • Use your purpose or key phrase 
openings as stories
Story telling

An example could be,-  “If you were with us on new years day walking down Elisabeth Street Pier. The sun soaking into our backs, smelling the coffee and fried chips from 42 degrees cafe.  You would have heard one of the two guys in front of us speak out loudly, in a pointed, sarcastic tone ‘some people have all the luck’. The big guy among the people having elevenses, onboard a million dollar motor yacht by the pier, didn’t falter, turning to his mate said. ‘ Now there is a smart young fella. And he’s right Bill. It’s taken me 50 years of hard slog to realise, the harder I work the luckier I get.'”

This happened to me in Hobart 2010. So I can visualise the event and tell it with the right feelings. Telling your own story that has relevance or as an analogy of your message is a powerful way to open your speech.

Next Favourite

Ask a Question or Questions  “Questions are the Answers” was a book written by Alan Pease and it  raises some interesting questions or should I say answers.  Asking questions immediately gains engagement because your audience is trying to answer your question in their mind.

Openings examples

for an older  audience “What were you doing when Armstrong stepped on the moon?” or a younger group – “Do you remember the day Princess Diana died?”, or “Remember the day of the New York Twin Towers Disaster”.Openings as questions

It’s easy to come up with a catchy question or two.  However, if they aren’t congruent with your subject, and your audience, then you will lose your audience. Wasting that preciously sought moment of engagement.

Our subconscious mind swings into action the minute it understands a question. It will keep coming up with answers until it’s resolved. Think about the process of finding your lost keys when you want to go out in the car right now.

A different  Question please?

Does your brain keep coming up with the most probable places for you to look?  Your brain goes into solving mode and starts to recall all last moments with your keys, all the places you normally leave them.  So is it an automatic response for your audience to answer your question, if only in thought? I think so…

I imagine if you were asked a question and the person didn’t wait for your answer, they just kept babbling on. It is very confusing and frustrating for you and you then tend to think they are being rude. You then don’t listen to what they are saying because you are still working on your answer.

Hold that thought and next time you ask a question of your audience … give them time to construct their answer in their heads. You will be amazed how much more engaged your audience will be.

Next Favourite Also

Openings that make an Outlandish Statement   Bold, powerful, controversial, affronting even seemingly incorrect statements challenge us. At the same time peak our interest in what is to follow. Here is an example I have heard used many times by certain characters to drive their point home.  This is very much a part of a marketing ploy. Unfortunately, it works.

“Out of 100 people starting work today, at the end of their working lifetimes:- 1 will be rich. 5 will be financially independent. 15 will have some money. Of the 79 left some will be dead, most will be broke or depending on relatives. Which group are you going to belong to? Let me show you how you can be one of the 5 by the time you retire.”

Another example…

“If you were born today, you would already owe $204,350.00 to pay off your share of the national debt.” just as bold and confronting and a great way to segue into a financial planning presentation with your audience ready to hear your solution.

Another Next Favourite

Steve Jobs;- The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.  Using a quote can have a tremendous effect if presented with the authority it’s reputation deserves. It must be congruent with your message to have effect.

I once used a Winston Churchill quote and I mimiced Winston Churchills voice and not my favorite openingsmannerism. it had so much more impact.
The great thing about quotes is they are so easy to find and there is one for every situation available.

I still like using quotes, however I prefer to use them as a secondary support mechanism within presentations or to support a closing call to action.

Quotes always add authority because if they aren’t that well known then you cite the famous person who created the quote.

Other Favourites

Sing a Song or the popular chorus of a song.  To do this you will need to be confident of your singing voice. if you are not then either use it as humour or forget the idea.

Recite a Poem with the right audience this is a captivating way to grab their attention especially with the right poem for the message and the audience.  Do your research well to make sure you have the right poem.

Use Suspense Leading to a Surprising Twist, For example; A survey says a certain nationality is aloof, cool, even less than friendly and they start to ask foreigners about this. Then as your talk progresses it turns out the complete wholistic results show a greater independence of character within the nationality.  Hence their perceived coolness is more related to their greater tolerance and friendliness to other independent people.  A higher value in the eyes of that nationality.

Enlist them in a Group Activity  Can be an excellent approach especially if you know you are on as the second speaker after the lunch break. – It’s sleep time and physical activity is the only way to wake them up so they can take your message onboard.  Again congruency and relevance is vital.

What wouldn’t you do?

“Ladies and Gentleman”

Unless you are the MC and you have to address the audience and the dignitaries by way of introduction then I strongly suggest you avoid this phrase at all costs.

It is over used, it stands out like a sore thumb as a crutch phrase. Mostly used to try to engage you when the speaker knows no better or is too lazy to think of other ways to attract you.  It is used to help the speaker feel important – ‘egocentric’.

Don’t set the scene..  If you are not able to fit some relevant background into your speech. Provide the person who introduces you with that information as part of your Intro.  You must not at all costs deviate from your impact opening.

Openings to reject
Reject this material

I want to tell my story…  Not really WIIFM openings as far as the audience is concerned.  If you want to tell your story then find a way to weave it into your delivery so it is a congruent part of your message.

Preferably told in a fashion that doesn’t disclose that you are the culprit or victim until the very end.

Can you hear me at the back ?

Simply a poor poor excuse for a presenter. As an audience you ought make a statement and leave now before you fall asleep and waste your valuable time.

An apology directly or inferred

Any apology at the start of or at the end of a speech immediately signals that you are weak and not in charge of who you are. Your audience needs to feel assured you are strong and a leader. The only acceptable apology is if the purpose of your presentation is to apologies.

Hi, my name is.. & i’m going to talk about…or tell you

Again WIIFM? “I” “Me” “I” “My” all are switch off words. The idea of  good openings is to switch your audience ON. Thought is,  I get told all the time I don’t need it from you.

An overzealous trick

For this, I have egg on face.  I totally spoilt the opening of a speech with a prank that I knew was totally congruent with my speech however it was too new a fad at the time, ‘Planking’,  and the audience was in total amazement.

So much so, all I did was create a photo opportunity for Facebook instead of an effective opening.  The timing was totally spoilt.  It takes twice as much energy to recover from this kind of misadventure than effectively using the 5P’s.

Please, don’t reinvent the wheel, learn from others mistakes, have outstanding openings.


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Article by Terry

Over the years Terry has learned to be a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Keynote Speaker, Presenter, Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Business Owner/Manager, Trainer, Facilitator, Teacher, Sailor, Dancer, Worker, Gardener, Reader, Music Lover and someone who thoroughly enjoys helping people to become better. We are all evolving by learning all the time, how and what we choose to learn makes us who we become. The key to Terrys passionate and enthusiastic approach is savouring the experience of contributing to the growth, action and enjoyment of the individual with their career.

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