7 Great Speech Opening Techniques

Winston_ChurchillLast night I gave a talk to a group of speakers on seven techniques that will help a speaker create a great opening to his or her talk. It was well received and I wanted to share it with you. Please keep in mind that this is not a transcript of the talk, so lasts night’s humor was trimmed out to present the information more succinctly.

1. State the Importance of the Topic

This appears to be a no brainer idea, but its one that is critically important and seldom done. When the audience is told how the topic relates to their life, attention spans are lengthened and interest is peaked to absorb the content with pleasure. People always pay closer attention to topics that will effectively improve their lives.

2. Make a Startling Statement

Attention getting devices are helpful to draw an audience’s focus from their drifting thoughts to your talk. The bigger the wow factor the more alert the audience. Within a short period of time the audience scans their memories to compare what they already know to the factualness of the statement. This practice demands the audience hear you out to fill in the gaps the statement created.

3. Arouse Suspense or Curiosity

Everyone likes a good mystery that pays off with a benefit for his or her life. Our peaked curiosity places our minds into a learning mode that allows us to consider the value of new information. It moves us into the zone of soaking up information.

4. Tell a Story or Anecdote

Storytelling forms our memories and is the vehicle we use to share unforgettable information. The anecdote becomes the demonstrative element of the points we make. It is also the relatable trigger that brings back the shared self-help information we crave.

5. Ask a Rhetorical Statement

When a person asks a question, whether rhetorical or not, our minds engage in a process to find the answer. If one is not quickly found within our memories, our curiosity is peaked and we willingly hear out the messenger. If, however, we have a memory of similarity or contrast, we use the comparison as a filter in our listening process, giving full attention to the speaker.

6. Use a Quotation

Quotes stand the test of time and cause the listener to think. Winston S. Churchill is one of the most notable people ever quoted and he clarifies what makes for a good speech. “A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

7. Reference the Occasion

Acknowledging the event you speak at helps the audience to immediately correlate your talk with the night’s purpose. The embracing of the content becomes synonymous with the event in the minds of the audience.

A successful opening gets the audience’s attention, introduces the topic, and helps the speaker establish report. These positive opening techniques drive the success factor, but should not take over the talk. Keeping the opening to about 5% of the talk’s length (not exceeding 10% of the talk) guarantees a captivated audience for the presented keynote content.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers