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How to start a speech and ace it?

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We’ve all had times when words failed us; I know I have. In those times, I hoped for someone or something to help me, and I hope that this blog will be that something for you. I’m sure you’ve often pondered over the question of how to start a speech if you’re anything like me. I’m here to answer just that.

I understand that the starting of a speech, just like a first impression, can make you or break you. The fear of not getting your speech right can be just as daunting. But don’t worry because, over the years, I’ve been able to gain ample knowledge and understanding of how you can make a speech work.

In this blog post, I’ll cover everything from the best way to start a speech to simple tips to confidently deliver it. Everything in this blog is my take away from the numerous speeches I’ve given or helped with throughout my life.

Failing to prepare is just preparing to fail.

Preparation is what forms the backbone of any speech. It is what goes behind the scenes that matters the most. The idea of improvising can be rather exciting, but when you’re prepared and researched, you add real value to your audience.

Here’s my step-by-step process of preparing for a speech:

1. Start with general and then go in-depth:

It’s always a good idea to start small by understanding the topic in a simple manner. Then move forward to break it down into smaller parts and research those to bits. This will also help you in expressing your points clearly to your audience. So, remember that researching well about the topic is an excellent way to start a speech.

2. Know your audience:

If you don’t know who you’re talking to, how will you know what and how to say it. It’s essential to understand your audience, whether they’re students or professionals, young or old, and even uninformed or experts. Structure your speech accordingly and try to answer possible questions that your audience may have.

To put it into perspective, if you’re speaking on the topic of stress management, you’ll address the issue differently while talking to a bunch of school students than when you’re speaking to school counselors, right? 

3. Practice, practice, practice

Once your speech is ready, it’s time for you to practice because that will lead you to your goal. The easiest way to start is by recording yourself and then hearing it as it will help you point out the problems. Another simple yet essential element of practicing a speech is spreading it out over a period of time rather than cramming it up a night before. Try the 3 x 3 method, i.e., practice thrice a day for three days. After preparing any speech, I open the Orai app to record my first dirty version. Once I see my results, I get to know exactly where I need to improve. Orai is a speech coach, available both on iOS and Android, that will help you improve your speaking skills using guided lessons and private practice.

This is how practice works on the Orai app

What is a good way to start a speech to get attention?

The best way to start a speech is to make sure that your speech’s content is top-notch. The best speeches are those which inspire, educate, or entertain the audience. It’s the content of your speech that plays a significant role in dictating its impact. 

Although your entire speech needs to keep the audience hooked, it’s the starting that majorly sets the tone. There are plenty of good ways to start a speech that work but there are three that I swear by.

1. How to start a speech with a promise

Commencing your speech with a promise is a great way to build a connection with your audience from the get-go. We only make promises with people we’re close to and we know how important it is to live up to it. It also helps the audience in believing you and your authenticity. On top of that, you get to set the goal for your speech with a promise, in the beginning, making it easier for you to reach it.
To give you an example, I started this blog with the promise to tell you the best practices to start a speech, so you know what you’re looking for in this.

2. Story to start a speech:

This is a favorite and undoubtedly one of the best ways to start a speech. To me, stories are fantastic ways of giving examples and conveying a point without making it obvious. They are memorable and give space for imagination, helping your audience connect with you. 

As noted by Professor Chip Heath of Stanford University, “When students are asked to recall the speeches, 63% remember the stories whereas only 5% remember any individual statistic.”

Hence, people are far more likely to listen to, remember, and share your speech if it’s rooted in a relatable story, rather than just packed with facts and theory.

3. How to start a speech with a quote

People tend to listen to and follow the words of those more successful or known than them. That’s why using quotes to start a speech is a useful method if you want your audience to listen to you. I’ve often used quotations from the people that inspire me to commence a speech. Here’s an example I have used in one of my speeches :

As Michelle Obama wrote in her book Becoming, “Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own,” so today, I’m here to own mine…

4. How to start a speech with a joke

Jokes are wonderful ice-breakers and instant attention-grabbers. Sometimes we assume that the audience will naturally listen because we’re speaking but that’s far from the truth. It’s the speaker’s job to gain the audience’s interest. So if you’re using jokes to start a speech, just make sure they’re actually funny and relevant to the speech. But beware, if you start strong, you need to maintain that throughout.

To illustrate how to start a speech with a joke, here’s an example: “It’s funny, as I was walking up here I was thinking that we all have a lot in common today. None of us know what I’m going to say!?” by Ross Shafer.

Say it with confidence, or don’t say it at all.

I’ve discussed how to start a speech along with the step-by-step preparation required for it. So, now it’s time that we understand how to deliver the speech with confidence. You must say it like you mean it, and for that, you need to have confidence in yourself and your content. 

Your confidence is depicted through your voice and body language. You’re more likely to listen to someone standing straight and speaking clearly and loudly than you are to listen to someone with drooping shoulders and a shaky voice. Although there’s no single best way to start a speech, all those ways indeed include starting it with confidence. You can only convince the audience to listen to you if you are confident of yourself. 

So remember, to start your speech with confidence by :

  1. making and maintaining eye contact
  2. being well prepared and well-researched and,
  3. making sure that both your thoughts and your throat are clear.

We’re finally at the end of this blog post, and I’m hoping that you have found the answers to your questions on how to start a speech and figured out the best way to start a speech that will wow your audience and leave a lasting impression. So, the next time you are planning to give a speech, be sure to prepare well, practice hard, and start with confidence to ace it all the way!

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