How to start a speech the right way?

Starting a speech effectively is crucial as it sets the tone and engages your audience right from the beginning. Here are 35 ways to start a speech the right way:

  1. Ask a compelling question: Engage your audience immediately by posing a thought-provoking question related to your topic.
  2. Quote someone famous: A relevant quote can provide a solid and authoritative start.
  3. Tell a story: Personal or fictional, stories draw listeners in and create a connection.
  4. Present a shocking statistic: Captivate your audience with a surprising fact or statistic that highlights the importance of your topic.
  5. Use humor: A light-hearted joke related to your topic can relax the audience and make you more relatable.
  6. Make a bold statement: Start with a strong, opinionated statement that sparks curiosity.
  7. Use silence: A strategic pause can grab attention and emphasize the seriousness of your speech.
  8. Ask for audience participation: Get the audience involved from the start with an interactive question or poll.
  9. Set the scene: Describe a scene or setting that relates to your topic to help the audience visualize it.
  10. State the purpose: Clearly articulate why the topic is relevant to your audience’s interests or needs.
  11. Pose a hypothetical situation: Challenge your audience to think critically by presenting a hypothetical scenario that relates to your topic.
  12. Refer to a historical event: Connect your topic to a significant event in history to provide context and depth.
  13. Share a relevant anecdote: A brief, relevant personal experience can make your topic more tangible and relatable.
  14. Use a prop or visual aid: Start with a visual element that captures attention and underscores your main points.
  15. Invoke the audience’s imagination: Encourage listeners to imagine a scenario or visualize an outcome related to your speech.
  16. Quote a shocking headline: Use a recent headline as a springboard into your topic, particularly if it’s controversial or trending.
  17. Start in the middle of the action: Begin with a dynamic, action-oriented sentence or scenario to drop your audience right into the subject matter.
  18. Address the current location or event: Tie your speech to the significance of the venue or occasion to make it immediately relevant.
  19. State a common misconception: Challenge commonly held beliefs to pique interest and set the stage for enlightenment.
  20. Share an interesting observation: A unique perspective or observation can offer a fresh take on a familiar subject.
  21. Invoke a sense of urgency: Highlight why it’s critical to address the topic now.
  22. Give a preview: Outline the main points you will cover, which can help to structure the audience’s expectations.
  23. Ask the audience to visualize success: Have them imagine achieving a goal related to the topic.
  24. Begin with an audio or video clip: A striking sound bite or short video can quickly engage the audience.
  25. Use a powerful quote from literature: A literary quote can lend weight and drama to your introduction.
  26. Contrast past and present: Show how things have changed over time or how they have remained the same.
  27. Share a lesson learned: Offer a valuable insight or lesson that sets the stage for further discussion.
  28. Pose a series of rhetorical questions: Build curiosity and engagement without needing direct answers.
  29. Mention a recent discovery or innovation: Link your topic to a breakthrough to stress its modern-day relevance.
  30. Connect with the audience’s goals or values: Align your message with what the audience cares about.
  31. Highlight a paradox: Present a contradiction that prompts thought and discussion.
  32. Offer a surprising fact: Something unexpected can be a very effective hook.
  33. Start with a strong emotion: Convey passion, excitement, frustration, or another strong emotion to draw in your audience.
  34. Use a metaphor or simile: Start with a metaphor to make complex ideas more understandable and engaging.
  35. Call to action: Begin by calling the audience to action, setting a proactive tone for the rest of your speech.

Article Highlights:

  • Versatility in Approaches: Each of these starting techniques caters to different topics and audience types, showcasing the versatility needed to tailor your speech opening to the specific context and audience.
  • Engagement Techniques: Techniques such as asking questions, telling stories, or using humor are effective ways to ensure the audience is invested from the beginning.
  • Impact of First Impressions: The opening of your speech can influence the audience’s perception throughout the presentation, making it essential to choose a method that aligns with the message and desired impact.
  • Preparation Tips: Practice different openings to see which feels most natural and effective for engaging your audience right from the start.

Choosing the right opening is about matching the technique to both the topic and the audience, ensuring that the start of your speech is as impactful as possible.

Ask a compelling question

Engage your audience immediately by posing a thought-provoking question related to your topic. This method is effective because it directly involves the audience in the conversation from the beginning, prompting them to think critically about the subject matter. For example, a speech on climate change might begin with, “What if your daily commute could decide the fate of the planet?” This not only captivates the audience but also sets up the speech to address a critical and relatable issue.



Quote someone famous

A relevant quote can provide a solid and authoritative start. Using a quote lends credibility to your speech and can align your message with respected figures in the field. For instance, starting a talk on perseverance with a quote like Nelson Mandela’s “It always seems impossible until it’s done” can inspire and connect emotionally with the audience. This method is particularly powerful when the quote directly relates to the core message of your speech, enhancing its impact and relevance.

Tell a story

Personal or fictional, stories draw listeners in and create a connection. Stories are a powerful tool because they transform abstract concepts into tangible experiences that the audience can relate to emotionally. For example, if you are giving a speech about innovation, you might start with a story about a well-known inventor’s struggles and breakthroughs. This approach not only makes the topic more relatable but also humanizes it, making your speech more engaging and memorable.

Present a shocking statistic

Captivate your audience with a surprising fact or statistic that highlights the importance of your topic. Statistics are effective because they provide concrete evidence that reinforces the significance of your message. For example, beginning a speech on digital security might include a statistic like, “Last year, over 1 billion personal data records were compromised online.” Such a statistic can shock the audience into paying closer attention to the solutions or discussions that follow in your speech.

Use humor

A light-hearted joke related to your topic can relax the audience and make you more relatable. Humor makes you more approachable and breaks down barriers between you and the audience, especially in more formal settings or complex topics. For instance, if discussing the complexities of the tax system, you might start with, “Why did the accountant break up with the calculator? She found it too calculating!” This can ease the audience into a potentially dry topic, making it more accessible and enjoyable.

Make a bold statement

Start with a strong, opinionated statement that sparks curiosity. This approach immediately engages the audience by challenging their preconceptions or piquing their interest. For example, in a speech about renewable energy, you might begin with, “Oil is the past; the future is growing in our fields and shining down on us.” Such a statement not only sets a confident tone but also primes your audience for a discussion about alternatives to fossil fuels, thereby framing your speech around a transformative idea.

Use silence

A strategic pause can grab attention and emphasize the seriousness of your speech
A strategic pause can grab attention and emphasize the seriousness of your speech

A strategic pause can grab attention and emphasize the seriousness of your speech. Silence can be a powerful tool, especially following an impactful statement or question. It gives the audience time to digest what has been said and builds anticipation for what’s coming next. For instance, after stating a shocking statistic or revelation, pausing allows the weight of the information to settle, enhancing the emotional impact and engagement levels of the audience.

Ask for audience participation

Get the audience involved from the start with an interactive question or poll. This technique makes the audience an active part of the discussion, increasing their engagement and investment in the topic. In a presentation on health and technology, you might ask, “By a show of hands, how many of you have used a health tracking app this week?” This not only gathers attention but also connects the audience’s personal experiences to the subject matter, making your speech more relatable.

Set the scene

Describe a scene or setting that relates to your topic to help the audience visualize it. This method is especially useful for topics that benefit from vivid imagery, helping the audience to see what you’re describing and thus become more immersed in the narrative. For example, if your speech is about rainforest conservation, start by describing the lush greenery, diverse wildlife, and the sounds of the forest. This can effectively transport the audience to the scene, making the issue more real and urgent.

State the purpose

Clearly articulate why the topic is relevant to your audience’s interests or needs. This ensures that right from the beginning, your audience understands the importance of the topic and how it applies to them. For example, if addressing changes in data protection laws, you might start by saying, “Every choice you make online is being tracked, but new laws could protect your digital footprint.” Outlining the relevance of your topic in this way helps to secure audience interest and engagement from the outset.

Pose a hypothetical situation

Challenge your audience to think critically by presenting a hypothetical scenario that relates to your topic. This method is particularly effective for engaging the audience’s problem-solving skills and sparking their interest. For instance, if your topic is on the ethical implications of artificial intelligence, you might begin by asking, “Imagine a world where AI could predict your every choice, now what if that technology fell into the wrong hands?” This prompts the audience to think about the real-world implications and sets the stage for a deep dive into ethical considerations.

Refer to a historical event

Connect your topic to a significant event in history to provide context and depth. This approach lends credibility to your speech and helps to anchor your message in well-known facts or events. For example, if discussing leadership, you might start with, “Consider Winston Churchill’s leadership during WWII; his resolve under pressure altered the course of history.” This not only captivates the audience but also parallels historical insights with modern-day leadership challenges.

Share a relevant anecdote

A brief, relevant personal experience can make your topic more tangible and relatable. Anecdotes are a powerful way to humanize your topic and create a connection with your audience. If your speech is about overcoming adversity, you might share a personal story about a challenge you faced and how you overcame it. This method makes the abstract concept of resilience more concrete and personal.

Use a prop or visual aid

Start with a visual element that captures attention and underscores your main points. Visuals are extremely effective in grabbing audience attention and helping them to remember your message. For instance, if you are talking about pollution, showing images of wildlife affected by plastic waste can be a powerful opener that visually represents the scale and urgency of the issue.

Invoke the audience’s imagination

Encourage listeners to imagine a scenario or visualize an outcome related to your speech. This technique makes your message more impactful by making it experiential. If speaking on the future of technology, you might say, “Imagine waking up in a world where your coffee is prepared by a robot as soon as your alarm goes off.” This kind of visualization helps the audience see the potential real-world application of innovations in technology, making your topic both exciting and relevant.

Quote a shocking headline

Use a recent headline as a springboard into your topic, particularly if it’s controversial or trending. This approach can immediately capture the audience’s attention and set the stage for a timely and relevant discussion. For instance, if your speech is about privacy in the digital age, you might start with a headline like “Millions of Personal Data Records Leaked This Month.” This introduces the urgency of the issue and makes the audience keen to learn more about protecting their information.

Start in the middle of the action

Begin with a dynamic, action-oriented sentence or scenario to drop your audience right into the subject matter. This method is great for capturing attention quickly and making the topic immediately gripping. For example, if speaking on emergency response, you could open with, “The building was already engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived.” This places the audience right into the scenario, emphasizing the critical nature of timely response.

Address the current location or event

Tie your speech to the significance of the venue or occasion to make it immediately relevant. This method helps personalize your speech for the audience and the specific event, enhancing engagement. If giving a speech at a university, you might start with, “Here in the halls where future leaders are made, we discuss the building blocks of true leadership.”

State a common misconception

Challenge commonly held beliefs to pique interest and set the stage for enlightenment. By addressing and correcting a misconception, you engage your audience’s cognitive faculties, preparing them for a thoughtful re-evaluation of the topic. For instance, if discussing nutrition, you might begin with, “Many believe that fats are detrimental to health, yet the latest research tells a different story.

Share an interesting observation

A unique perspective or observation can offer a fresh take on a familiar subject. This approach is effective for engaging the audience with new insights into common topics. For example, in a discussion about innovation, you could open with, “I noticed that the most creative ideas often come from those who are new to the field, unburdened by conventional wisdom.” This observation can lead to a deeper discussion about the value of outsider perspectives in driving innovation.

Invoke a sense of urgency

Highlight why it’s critical to address the topic now. This approach emphasizes the immediate importance of the subject matter, motivating the audience to pay close attention and act accordingly. For example, in a speech about climate change, you might start by saying, “We are at a critical juncture; the decisions we make today will determine the health of our planet for future generations.” This statement not only underscores the urgency but also compels the audience to consider the long-term impact of their actions today.

Give a preview

Outline the main points you will cover, which can help to structure the audience’s expectations. This method helps to orient your listeners to the flow of your presentation, making it easier for them to follow along. For instance, you could start a financial planning seminar by stating, “Today, we will explore three key strategies for securing your financial future: investment diversification, retirement planning, and emergency savings.” This gives the audience a clear roadmap of what to expect.

Ask the audience to visualize success

Have them imagine achieving a goal related to the topic. This technique is particularly effective in motivational speeches. It encourages the audience to personally connect with the topic by visualizing their own success. In a career development workshop, you might begin with, “Imagine standing in the position you’ve always dreamed of, the role you are not just working but thriving in. Let’s talk about how we can get you there.”

Begin with an audio or video clip

A striking sound bite or short video can quickly engage the audience. Using multimedia can capture attention effectively and can set the tone for the rest of your speech. For example, if discussing the impact of media on public perception, starting with a powerful clip from a recent news broadcast can immediately make the topic relatable and urgent.

Use a powerful quote from literature

A literary quote can lend weight and drama to your introduction. This method connects your speech to broader cultural or philosophical themes and adds depth to your narrative. Opening a discussion on leadership with a quote like Shakespeare’s “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em,” immediately elevates the conversation and provides a rich context for the discussion that follows.

Contrast past and present

Show how things have changed over time or how they have remained the same. This approach can be particularly effective for highlighting progress or enduring challenges within a topic. For instance, in a speech about technology in education, you might begin by contrasting the blackboard and chalk of the past with today’s digital whiteboards and tablets, illustrating the dramatic evolution in teaching tools. This not only sets the stage for discussing current educational technologies but also contextualizes the pace and impact of technological change.

Share a lesson learned

Offer a valuable insight or lesson that sets the stage for further discussion. Sharing lessons learned can humanize your speech and make the content more accessible. For example, if giving a talk on entrepreneurship, you might start with a personal anecdote about a pivotal mistake and the lesson it taught you, such as the importance of listening to customer feedback. This approach not only engages the audience but also prepares them for a deeper exploration of the challenges and rewards of building a business.

Pose a series of rhetorical questions

Build curiosity and engagement without needing direct answers. Rhetorical questions are a powerful rhetorical device used to provoke thought and draw the audience into a state of reflection. In a speech about environmental conservation, you could open with questions like, “What if every plastic bottle you ever used still exists? What if the next generation could never see a coral reef?” These questions immediately engage the audience, prompting them to consider the long-term impacts of their actions on the environment.

Mention a recent discovery or innovation

Link your topic to a breakthrough to stress its modern-day relevance. Highlighting recent discoveries or innovations can make your speech feel timely and relevant. If discussing advancements in medical research, start by mentioning a groundbreaking new treatment or technology that has transformed patient care. This not only captures attention but also sets a hopeful, forward-looking tone for the discussion that follows.

Connect with the audience’s goals or values

Align your message with what the audience cares about. Understanding and speaking to the audience’s values or aspirations can make your message more impactful and engaging. For instance, if addressing a group of young professionals about personal finance, you might begin by acknowledging their aspirations for financial independence and security, then tailor your speech to address these interests directly. This alignment not only captures attention but also enhances the relevance and impact of your message.

Highlight a paradox

Present a contradiction that prompts thought and discussion. A paradox captures attention by challenging the audience’s expectations and provoking deeper thinking. For example, in a speech on technology and connectivity, you might start with, “In an age where everyone is connected, why are so many of us feeling lonelier than ever?” This apparent contradiction sets the stage for an engaging discussion on the impacts of digital communication on human relationships.

Offer a surprising fact

Something unexpected can be a very effective hook. Surprising facts grab the audience’s attention and can highlight the significance of your topic. If you’re speaking about the impact of diet on health, you could begin with, “Did you know that adding just one serving of vegetables to your daily diet reduces your risk of mortality by 5%?” Such a fact can pique interest and underscore the importance of dietary choices in a new light.

Start with a strong emotion

Convey passion, excitement, frustration, or another strong emotion to draw in your audience. Emotions are powerful drivers of engagement. Starting a speech on climate change with a heartfelt expression, like “Every time I see a forest dwindling, a part of my heart sinks, knowing what we’ve lost,” can immediately engage the audience’s feelings and draw them into the subject matter emotionally.

Use a metaphor or simile

Start with a metaphor to make complex ideas more understandable and engaging. Metaphors and similes create vivid imagery and can make abstract or complex concepts more tangible. In a discussion about overcoming adversity, you might say, “Navigating life’s challenges is like sailing against the current: it requires resilience, strength, and sometimes a change in direction.” This not only illustrates the struggle but also helps the audience visualize the journey.

Call to action

Begin by calling the audience to action, setting a proactive tone for the rest of your speech. A call to action is a powerful way to start a speech as it immediately challenges the audience to engage with the topic on a practical level. For instance, if advocating for environmental conservation, you could open with, “Join me today in pledging to reduce our plastic use; together, we can start to heal our planet.” This not only emphasizes the urgency of the issue but also encourages immediate personal engagement from the audience.