Plato said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” When it comes to speeches and presentations, your beginning is critical. You get one chance to make a good first impression, so you want to hook the audience with your opening words.
An audience’s attention is usually at its highest just before you begin. There is hope and expectation in the air. You want to open in such a way as to capitalize on the this positive atmosphere and draw people irresistibly into your talk.
Speakers who begin their talks in a boring way — “Good morning everyone. My name is So-and-So and I’m happy to be here. If you look at the agenda, you will see that today we are going to talk about …” — often miss this opportunity, which could lead to people losing interest. And when the audience starts to disengage early, it is a challenge to win them back.
There is no rule that that obliges you to begin with “Hello” or something similar. Likewise, introducing yourself does not have to be the first thing that you do. And, if you are happy, that’s great. Show it in your smile and energy and enthusiasm.
You have many options for an opening that will hook the audience. The infographic below lists six of the best, with examples for each. Just remember that your opening should set up the rest of your talk. Therefore, it must relate in some way to the subject about which you are speaking.