(Editor’s note: This was one of the top viewed stories of 2014. We’re rerunning it as part of a look back at the articles that captivated our readers the most.)
Almost every speaker I’ve ever trained begins their practice speech the same way.
They walk to the front of the room, say good morning/afternoon/evening, thank the audience for coming, and express their delight to be there. Then they turn around and flip to their first slide, a bulleted agenda of what they plan to discuss during their presentation.
What a bore.
The opening minutes of a presentation are often the most important. According to Allan and Barbara Pease, authors of “The Definitive Book of Body Language,” the audience forms 60 to 80 percent of its impression of a speaker within the first four minutes.
Here are some effective ways to open a speech, each with an example. Take a look:
1. The startling statistic
Opening with a startling statistic is a terrific way of grabbing the audience’s attention from your first word. In order to be effective, the statistic should be related directly to the main purpose of your talk.