How to Open Your Speech

1. Begin with a Powerful Question Specific to that Audience:

For example, if I’m speaking to an audience of small business owners, I can ask, “What do you think is the number one reason most small businesses cannot seem to get more customers?” If you were a small business owner, would you want to know the answer? Great, then you’re hooked with my first sentence.

If I’m speaking to a group of people who are in a self-development organization, I can ask, “What do you think is the number one obstacle standing between most people living their dreams?” I can tell you from their responses that they’re definitely interested in the answer. Therefore, I’ve hooked them with my very first sentence. Whatever you do, make sure you invest lots of time and energy in the way you phrase your question because those first 7 seconds are critical to the success of the rest of your speech.

2. Jump Right Into Your Story

Although opening with a powerful question is highly-effective, another great way to open is with a story. When I say “a story” I don’t mean that you begin with something like the following: “I’d like to tell you a story about a time…” No!  Don’t announce that you’re about to tell a story; just tell it. Jump right into the story from your very first words. For example, oftentimes the very first thing I used to say from the stage (after being introduced and the applause died down) was this:
When I was in prison…visiting, one of the inmates came up to me after my presentation and said…
This works well for two reasons:
First, it’s unexpected because audiences are usually expecting the speaker to say things like, “I’m glad to be here” or “Thanks for the opportunity.” Those are normal statements that make the audience think, “There will be nothing special about this speech.” However, when you jump right into your story, they jump right into your speech.
Next, when I open with the ”When I was in prison” statement above, I get a laugh within the first 5 words. This is critical because, within the first 7 seconds, we start building a bond.

About the Author
Craig Valentine is the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking. You can take advantage of his wealth of public speaking resources on