Startling Introductions for Talks, Public Speaking and Communications


“Jump right into the middle” and “open the shoot and let the bucking bronco out of the pin” are my mottos for opening talks, speeches and communications to groups.  I don’t like to hear speakers mumble phrases like “I am so honored to be here” or “Thanks for inviting me.”  No one is listening to that kind of stuff, because they expect it to be said.  In fact, audiences aren’t listening at all in the first minute of most talks.  They are busy chatting or shuffling around to get comfortable and ready to listen. Audiences expect that the speaker will take some time to get into her subject matter. One of the reasons speakers are often so uncomfortable in the first 5 minutes of their talks is that they know they are not connecting with listeners yet.

 Well, I say “Startle them!” Say something that will cause them to listen NOW! Say something that will capture their attention instantly.  It is so much fun to experience a whole group focus on you instantly when you open in a way that snaps them to attention.  Here are five great ways to open a talk that will compel listeners to really listen.

  1. “Imagine…a situation.”  Paint a picture of an intriguing situation that causes their minds to go there.
  2. Ask a compelling question. “Have you ever…been so comfortable in front of a group that you felt you were at one with them?
  3. Start in the middle of your story. “I was just about to lose my costume in front of 200 people when I first experienced the power of presence to transform my relationship with an audience.”
  4. I’ll never be able to forget “the day I first experienced being at one with an audience.”
  5. Impact statement opening.  Say the most dramatic, surprising or shocking thing you can say about your topic. “People who have the most stage fright have the potential to be the most impacting speakers of all, because they have the feelings!”

 To help you make your startling opening even more powerful, stand silently for a few seconds when you step up to the podium.  Take a few seconds to presence yourself and make soft eye contact with listeners.  Your silence will interest them.  Your soft eye contact will magnetize them, drawing their attention to you. Then, jump in! Make the very first words out of you mouth one of these six ways to open your talk. Once you get the hang of a startling opening, you’ll delight in opening talks and you won’t have that dreaded first 5 minutes when you are waiting to get comfortable and connected.

I am Sandra Zimmer, author of It’s Your Time to Shine and founder of Self-Expression Center.  I offer group training and individual coaching that can help you transform fear of speaking and become a compelling, persuasive speaker so that you can shine when you share your ideas, insights and expertise.

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