4 bad ways to start a speech (and what to do instead)


Imagine this: you are about to give a presentation. As soon as you step on stage, the audience applauds, eagerly awaiting your words. They’re all ears and ready to hear your talk — essentially, they’re at the peak of their attention.

But how should you begin your speech? Consider the following options:

1. Manners first. Start by thanking the emcee for their fantastic introduction or the event organizers for the invitation. For example: “I would like to express my sincere thanks for this wonderful introduction and for inviting me here today as a speaker. »

2. Convey your enthusiasm. Infuse enthusiasm into your opening words. For example: “I am absolutely delighted and honored to be here to address this vital topic. »

3. Boost energy! Encourage the audience to clap for themselves or for the event organizers. For example: “Applause! Your presence here is truly appreciated!

4. Keep it simple with a self-introduction and a biography: “Hello everyone! My name is…”

The answer is E) None of the above answers. None of these options are ideal for effectively launching your speech. By relying on these conventional and somewhat pointless techniques, you are not fully harnessing your power to connect with the audience. In fact, you might unintentionally divert their attention.

One of the best ways to start a presentation and your work as a speaker

There’s a better way to start your presentation: pause briefly. Close your audience’s eyes to create anticipation. Then, dive into one of the best (and my favorite) opening strategies: tell a gripping, emotionally charged story that instantly captivates your listeners from the very first words.

(Secret preview! A momentary pause is a technique used by professional actors at the start of a monologue audition: it guarantees the full attention of the jury.)

Your job as a speaker is to do one or more of the following: teach, entertain/inspire or persuade your audience. At the beginning of your speech, your main mission is to catch the attention of the audience and to attract them. If you fail to hook listeners in the beginning, they may wander off and miss the key points you are about to deliver.

The most common mistakes made at the beginning of a speech

Created in Midjourney by Andrea Markowski

None of the four options offered at the beginning is interesting or will capture attention. Let’s break them down to dispel any doubts.

Manners first or conveying enthusiasm: If you want to thank people or say how excited you are to be there, you can! Later in your speech. Your introduction doesn’t have room for anything unrelated to your main topic. This is your golden moment. Don’t waste it.

Energy Booster: While encouraging applause can increase the energy of the room, remember that you are not a warm-up during a pep rally. Also, if your subject is serious, clapping may seem out of place. Earn those applause with your content!

Simple self-introduction: Introducing yourself might seem logical, but chances are you’ve already been introduced in the program, on the screen behind you, or via promotional material. Apologies, but reiterating your name or skimming through your bio isn’t a powerful enough introduction…unless you’re a one-name celebrity (and if you are, I’m flattered you’re reading this! ).

The importance of exciting beginnings

Created in Midjourney by Andrea Markowski

Why is it essential to capture the attention of your audience from the start? This is where the psychological effects of primacy and recency come into play. Simply put, people tend to remember the first and last things you say. Make those moments count. (More on how not to end your speech in another article.)

A reality check: you’re competing with smartphones, fatigue, and even refreshments. Have you seen an audience browsing social media during a keynote? I certainly did. Don’t be boring. Thanking people, asking for applause, saying how excited you are, or starting with your biography could lead the public to check your emails instead of listening to your critical message.

Engaging Beginnings and Beyond

What are the most captivating speech introductions you’ve heard? Please share!

Discover the incredible power of public speaking, an essential skill that can transform your career and improve your daily interactions. Don’t worry, it’s totally doable: anyone can master the art of speaking and presenting through practice. If you want to level up in this field, join me (on LinkedIn Or visit my website) for some really cool techniques rooted in behavioral science, marketing strategy, and the performing arts. You deserve to be heard.

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