Have you ever had a conversation that started like this?
I’m going to tell you about my trip to Europe. First, I’m going to tell you about the places I visited. Secondly, I’m going to tell you about the food and culture, and finally, I’m going to share with you why I think that you should consider taking your family there on your next holiday. So, firstly… the places I visited……..are you asleep yet?
Of course, people don’t start up conversations that way, we’d think they were mad if they did! So why do people start off their presentations that way?
It is super boring. There are better ways to kick off your presentation so that people will want to listen to the end, rather than glaze over before you have made your first point.
A speech is simply a conversation with many people. Aim to be conversational.
The old school “tell ’em what you are going to tell ’em, tell “em, then tell “em again” has long gone. Surprisingly, many people still use that formula. Audiences are time poor with many competing priorities. If you start off your presentation in this way you will lose them.
Here are 6 alternative ways to start your speech
#1 Tell a Story
I love storytelling. A relevant story is a great way to introduce your topic. A skilled storyteller often uses part of the story as a “teaser”, then returns to wrap up the story later to finish off the speech.
# Share an anecdote
Tell the audience an anecdote, something brief that happened to you, such as something about the hotel you are staying at or the venue where you are speaking. This helps the audience to relate to you and can work well if you are in unfamiliar territory.
#3 Start with a question
This can be a rhetorical question or maybe you want to get the audience to participate early in your speech – a great idea! Remember if you are using a rhetorical question, allow the audience enough time to be able to answer the question in their own mind.
#4 Begin with a startling fact or figure
This works well if you are trying to set the scene or even startle your audience with a fact they may not know. Jamie Oliver started his TED talk Teach Every Child About Food with a shocking statistic.
“Sadly, in the next 18 minutes when I do our chat, four Americans that are alive will be dead through the food that they eat” Jamie Oliver.
#5 Kick-off with a quote
This can work well. Find a quote that fits in with your overall message. Choose one that people are likely to be familiar with. It can work quite effectively to start and finish with the same quote, it’s a nice way to round off your speech and reinforce your message. Avoid the temptation to use too many quotes and always acknowledge the source.
#6 Start off by saying nothing!
Silence! This takes courage. It’s a tip I recently learned from Craig Valentine. What a way to command the audience’s attention by standing still and quiet! It is a sure way to have them listen. Often what is not said is heard the loudest. Have fun with this one but do ensure that this ties in with your purpose rather than just for the fun of it!
Try one of these ways to make your next presentation stand out.
Why be an ordinary speaker. There are too many ordinary speakers out there. Learn the skills so that you can stand out from the crowd.
About the author
Lisa Evans helps leaders and entrepreneurs to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers. Lisa is a certified speaker coach, TEDx speaker coach, four times author, NLP practitioner, graphic recorder and visual storyteller, and improvisational actor.
She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations.
If you wish to take advantage of a complimentary session in order to chat about how you can become an exceptional and successful speaker with a stand-out brand, then use this link to book a time to chat.
Here’s how I may help you
Business Storytelling Coaching – together we can get started to create your suite of stories. A minimum of three sessions is recommended 1:1 in person or virtually via Zoom.
Executive Speaker Coaching – if you have an upcoming guest speaking opportunity, funding pitch, conference talk or you want to be an outstanding speaker, we can work together on your technique. You will see the results after one session.
Storytelling for Leaders Interactive Workshops – I can come to you, or we can host a workshop offsite for your team. From half-day to two-days immersive, this customised workshop is an ideal way to kick start your business storytelling strategy and get the whole team telling stories.
Keynote/Guest Speaking at your next conference or event – I have several topics to choose from ranging from a 30-minute talk up to a 90-minute interactive session.