15 Ways to Begin Your Speech (Not the King’s)

Speechwriter Alan M. Perlman shares tips for every speechgiver in his book, Writing Great Speeches, Professional Techniques You Can Use.

Instead of starting a speech with a startling statistic or a dramatic quote, Perlman suggests using what he calls a “channel-opener,” which gets the audience used to your voice. The channel-opener includes thanking whoever invited the speaker and also recognizes the audience for their presence (perhaps they had challenging weather conditions to overcome). Then, Perlman suggests moving into the heart of your speech and offers fifteen strategies for doing so:

1. Summarize what is to follow
2. Explain your motivation for communicating
3. Talk about how you relate to the experience or the subject
4. State your purpose
5. Describe what’s new, interesting, useful or beneficial in what you’re about to communicate
6. Describe the background or context for what you’re about to say
7. State the overall plan of your speech (the way you’ve organized your subject matter)
8. Give examples of what you’re writing or talking about
9. Play off a current event or idea, either agreeing or disagreeing with it
10. Begin with a general – but related- subject and connect it to the audience and the speech topic
11. Talk about the audience – their beliefs, feelings, attitudes, situation, accomplishments, or challenges
12. Begin with a vision, which the audience will have a hand in realizing
13. Play off the title of the program, the theme of the conference, or the letter of invitation
14. Talk about the organization
15. Play off the date, day, month or year

Studies have shown that public speaking is one of the events people generally consider highly stressful. Perlman’s tips could take some of the edge off of that.

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