The Best Way to Start a Speech

Most people when they come to work with us already have some idea of how their speech will go.  And the most common mistake people make is starting wrong.  They begin with some polite thanks, a little self-introduction, perhaps a shout-out to someone in the audience.  

All throat-clearing.  

What’s wrong with it?  Recall movies from the 1940s.  How did they begin?  How does Casablanca, my favorite all-time movie, begin?  

When I ask clients that, they’ll say, “Didn’t it start with shots of planes and the city of Casablanca?”

No.  That movie starts with 7 minutes of credits.  

Now, think of how movies made in this century begin.  With action.  With lots of action, even before the credits roll.  Or perhaps underneath the credits.  Take James Bond.  You get 7 minutes of heart-pounding action, then the credits.

That’s your competition.  The world has changed.  Audiences no longer have the patience and attention span to listen to you clear your throat (metaphorically) for 7 minutes or even 3 minutes before you start actually delivering stuff they want to hear.  

So jump right in.  Start with action.  Start with a story.  Start with an explosion – a metaphorical one.  But start right away.  Audiences today expect you to get right to the point.  

That’s the best way to start a speech.  

3 Comments on “The Best Way to Start a Speech

  1. Agree completely! I love speeches that grab me from the get-go. When someone starts with intros and thank yous, I am bored before they get to whatever it is they want to talk about. Start with something fun and exciting, and later work in the thank yous and other intros.

  2. Attention speakers: No one cares about your introductory backslapping, bonding, and bonhomies.

    Every. Single. Person. In your texting, emailing, yawning, meditating and daydreaming audience knows you’re absolutely delighted to be here, that you’re amazed by our organizer, that you find our fair city utterly charming. It’s a given. Don’t go there. It’s boring.

    If you’ve got something important to say, grab our attention and don’t let go.

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