[page_counter]
start your speech with impact

How to start a speech or presentation

January 13, 2016

How do you start a speech or presentation with impact?

Think of how you typically start a speech or presentation. Do you begin with any of these lines?:

– Hi, my name is … and I’m here to talk about…

– Before I start, I want to introduce myself…

– Thank you all for coming, I’m really pleased to be here…

If you do this, you are wasting the most important part of your speech or presentation.

Instead, use one of our recommended ways to starting your talk:

Why? Because audiences form an impression within the first few seconds. They quickly decide whether or not to pay attention. That’s why it’s so important to hook your audience immediately.  And as a leader, great communication skills are vitally important.

In addition, psychologists have demonstrated a phenomenon known as the primacy effect. Your audience are more likely to remember the first bits of information you present them with. Therefore whatever you say in your opening lines should relate clearly to your key message.

 

Break the bad habit of weak beginnings with these powerful ways to start a speech or presentation:

How to start a speech or presentation – Option 1: Tell a story

Is there a short relevant anecdote that you could open with? If you can, use a local or topical angle. Your audience will know that you have tailored your talk for them. This will help to keep things fresh for you, too, particularly if you are delivering the same talk or presentation several times.

Or perhaps you could keep your audiece in suspense with this one simple trick:

  • Start a story at the beginning of  your speech or presentation.
  • Go into the main part of your talk
  • Go back to and conclude your story near the end of your talk.

Watch this technique in action: See how designer Danit Peleg starts off her speech with a short anecdote that sets the scene.

 

How to start a speech or presentation – Option 2: Ask a question

This could be a rhetorical question to make the audience think, or it could involve asking the audience to respond, usually by raising their hands if something applies to them. Alternatively, you could set out the question that your talk will address.  Read our article on using powerful language in your talks.

Watch this technique in action: Here’s how 17 year-old Raymond Wang – winner of the 2015 Intel Science and Engineering Fair top prize – uses the question technique to start his TED talk.

 

How to start a speech or presentation – Option 3: Describe a scenario

This technique blends the first two approaches. It sets a scene and prompts the audience to imagine what they would do or think in those circumstances. Scenarios are an effective way of demonstrating the relevance of abstract topics to the lives of the audience.

To use this technique:

  1. Give an everyday example.
  2. Get the audience to consider their own viewpoint
  3. Then set out to change or challenge it.

Watch this technique in action: See UPS’s Human Resource Manager, Regina Hartley, begin her presentation by setting out a scenario.

 

How to start a speech or presentation – Option 4: Do something completely unexpected

Will your audience have certain expectations about you or your talk, before you even begin? Then Start with something unexpected – or even shocking – to make them reconsider their preconceived ideas.

The way you do this needs to be relevant to avoid being gimmicky. When done well, it can be memorable, potentially humorous and even remarkable – with audience members sharing and reliving their reactions afterwards.

Watch this technique in action: Our final example is Mohammed Qahtani, the winner of the 2015 Toastmasters Championship. Watch how he starts his thought provoking speech on the power of words.

How to deal with housekeeping, introductions or pleasantries

Leave the housekeeping, introductions or pleasantries to the person who welcomes you to the front of the room.

If you need to cover some low impact but essential content, or if you won’t be introduced by anyone, it’s still important to begin with a high impact first minute. You can then loop back to the housekeeping, introductions or pleasantries once you have successfully engaged your audience.

 

If you need help choosing a great public speaking coach, read our guide to choosing a public speaking coach

Start your journey to world-class public speaking skills now

Download free ebook leadership communications

First, download our free ebook to start your journey towards becoming a Powerful Presenter.

You’ll learn our 5-step process for transforming ordinary presentations into your most Powerful Presentations yet: inspirational, memorable and persuasive.

This ebook is full of practical tips and insightful quotes that will help you make immediate improvements to your leadership talks and presentations, including:

  • How to have more confidence when you talk and present.
  • Be more persuasive when speaking to your audience.
  • Connect better with your audience.
  • Practical ways to plan and structure your talks.
  • How to impress and make a mark

Download your free copy of our Five Steps to Improve your Leadership Talks ebook now.

Start Improving My Public Speaking Today

Do you need help with a speech or presentation?

At Benjamin Ball Associates we help our clients create powerful talks and powerful first impressions. And we’ll coach you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.

Call Louise on 020 7018 0922 or email louise@nullbenjaminball.com to find out more and discuss your upcoming speech or presentation.

You may also be interested in...

Fundraising presentations: a survive and thrive guide for talking to investors

Apr 21, 2017

Fundraising presentations are hard work. You're bombarded with challenging questions from investors, worn out by long days, and struggling to...

Read More

Persuasive Investor Presentations – five techniques from psychology

Apr 13, 2016

Investment decision-making is not totally rational. Are you using all the tools at your disposal to create and deliver persuasive...

Read More

Five reasons that good public speaking skills make you a better leader

Nov 11, 2016

Do your public speaking skills enable you to inspire, motivate and influence others? Many leaders in the corporate world are...

Read More

Ten Benefits Of A Better Investor Pitch Book

May 10, 2018

A great investor pitch book is at the heart of successful fundraising.  It should capture the essence of your business...

Read More

Why Body Language Matters When Pitching to Win Business

Jun 29, 2012

Better Body Language We all know that body language is important in business.  But how important? And does is really...

Read More

Private Equity Fundraising Tips from the Experts: Become a Top 1% Fund

Sep 06, 2017

How can you be seen as a top 1% fund by investors? At SuperReturn Emerging Markets in Amsterdam, experienced LPs...

Read More

Six essential tests for your elevator pitch

Mar 07, 2016

A great elevator pitch is an essential part of your toolkit Last month I chaired the Quickfire Showcase at Berlin’s...

Read More

How to Take Charge of Your Media Interviews

Jan 16, 2013

Better Media Interviews The excruciating Newsnight interview with Treasury Minister Chloe Smith this summer is just one example of how poor preparation...

Read More

How To Write So People Will Read – 6 Great Tips

Mar 11, 2018

These days, we are writing more than ever.  That means it’s harder than ever to grab attention.  Your readers have...

Read More

How well do you answer difficult investor questions?

Nov 16, 2017

When an investor questions how you calculated your Private Equity fund's performance, how do you react? If an investor asks...

Read More

How to Choose a Public Speaking Coach

Aug 21, 2017

How do you choose a public speaking coach? When selecting a public speaking coach or presentation trainer, you want to work...

Read More

10 Power Language techniques to use in your next talk or presentation

Sep 06, 2017

How To Harness Powerful Language For Leadership Communications Great leaders use Power Language to add interest and colour to even...

Read More

The “So What?” Test

Dec 30, 2009

When you put your talk or presentation together, how do you decide what to include and what to leave out?  Use...

Read More

Private equity fundraising | Seven tips for first investor meetings

Dec 10, 2015

What do LPs want from private equity funds at first investor meetings? That's the question I put to the panel...

Read More

What do investors want? Six pitch tips for 2017

Sep 21, 2016

While we wrote this piece with our Private Equity clients in mind, there are good lessons here for anyone pitching...

Read More

Give high impact talks and presentations – 5 simple tips

Mar 01, 2017

Do you want to give high impact talks and presentations? Do you want to engage your audience? And do you want...

Read More

Storytelling: your secret weapon for effective business communication

Jul 05, 2017

Leaders use storytelling so that audiences listen, remember and act on what they say. In fact, stories are “the single...

Read More

Make Your Investment Pitch More Memorable – Six Simple Tips

Mar 29, 2017

How do you make your investment pitch more memorable? It's a real challenge these days. Investors have more opportunities than ever...

Read More

Three persuasive appeals you must use in your talks and presentations

Nov 30, 2016

Your leadership talks need to be persuasive As a leader, every talk or presentation you give is an exercise in persuasion....

Read More

What do LPs want from your private equity pitch book?

Oct 14, 2015

A well-crafted private equity pitch book can make the difference between securing a first meeting with investors and getting a...

Read More

ESSENTIAL PROGRAMMES

Review our top coaching, advice and training programmes.

1. Improve Your Investor Pitch

2. Public Speaking Coaching

3. Presentation Coaching

4. Media Training
All these are in-house programmes. (Not ‘open’ courses.) and can be run as 1:1 or small group training in-house.
Contact Us Now

.

Top Blog Posts

What Our Clients Say


“The new presentation properly represents the institutional quality of our fund. It has been a step change of us.”

Erwin de Kleijn Head of IR, Saemor Capital


“This training has contributed directly to new business – including a new FTSE100 client.”

Michelle Elstein Head of Business Development, Olswang LLP


“BBA transformed our pitch into a compelling investment narrative. They undoubtedly helped us secure Sky TV as an investor.”

Gerry Bastable  Director, Blast Films