Category Archives: Speech Openers

Clever Conference Presentation Openings

By My Web Writers

“Well, hello!” Presenter Smith greets his initially attentive audience, continuing with, “I’m Presenter Smith.  How nice of you to be here inside with me on this sunny afternoon.”

Yes, the audience thinks, nodding inwardly, wondering exactly how nice it is outside.

“I’m from Sheboygan—well, actually, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, but Sheboygan’s close enough—and—“

The audience members start to check their brochures for the name of the presentation, wondering What was it I wanted to hear about here?

“—I’ve been running my own little XYZ firm for about the last twenty years. I never get tired of speaking about XYZ, and I hope you all will find this as interesting as I do.”

Presenter Smith’s audience has checked out mentally about 40 seconds into the presentation. It’s a familiar experience for seasoned conference attendees, and with good reason. The Internet and public speaking books are rife with advice that generally goes along these lines:child

Build rapport with the audience. Establish a connection. Say something personal. Capture the audience’s attention.

All that sounds well and good, but in the wrong hands, is a recipe for disaster.

Collude and Inspire

Check out Peter Diamandis’ Opening Presentation at X PRIZE’s ‘incentive2innovate’ Conference. He opens by involving the audience personally as his cohorts in working at solving global problems at a crucial moment in time, stating, “At this moment in history, when the world has so many extraordinary challenges paired with economic restrictions, how we attack those problems and solve them – because fundamentally I believe all problems can be solved—the question is how to do it in an efficient fashion.”  For a talk such as Diamandis’, he could have set out to convey information—information he thought to be important, for sure, but ultimately, information—but instead, his opening move was to inspire.

Be different.

Watch the first 30 seconds or so of singer Amanda Palmer’s TED talk on the Art of Asking:

Palmer conveys both the unexpected and the personal.  You might scoff and say, “oh, she’s an entertainer, she can get away with that,” or “this is a TED talk, my conference presentation is for a totally different audience.” In response, you must know that one of the key elements for an interesting and captivating conference presentation is not only to hear information in a new way, but to be engaged in a new and different way, as well. Unless, of course, you are actually at the Boring Conference, but if not, well, then the odds are decidedly not in your favor that anyone in the room wants to hear a talk that’s “Like Listening to Paint Dry.”

Open Up

Don’t be afraid to say something different—your audience is crying out for it. If they can’t be in awe of your motivational presentation mojo, then let them see you. Remember, you’re unique, just like everyone else.  While that may seem trite, you should think of it as reassuring. While we may not all have been living eight foot statutes like Amanda Palmer, odds are that there was something in her weird that resonated with more than one person in the audience and who has since watched that clip.

Challenge Assumptionsunique

A great speech answers a great need. This doesn’t have to be a speech or presentation on ending world hunger, solving the malaria crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, or turning the current economic crisis on end. The “great need” could be a need that your audience was not even aware that they had—and when you answer it, they’ll never forget your presentation.

Get Real

The best presentation opener you can offer is earnest confidence and true sincerity.  The primacy effect serves to remind us that as humans, we tend to remember things better if they were presented first, rather than later one. It’s also known as first impressions, because if you make a great connection with your audience, they’ll be sure to remember they could trust you, and be more motivated to buy your product, try your solutions, work for your company, and so on.

So, PUNCH It!Punch

Use the acronym PUNCH to remember specific techniques for opening your next conference presentation (or your first).  Remember, the acronym isn’t just to remember the techniques by, but it also is the technique. Start strong, with no wibbly-wobbly “Hi, my name is” tried and true boredom trustees  that every other presenter you’ve wanted to walk out on has done. Start strong—PUNCH it! ~Sara

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Speech Openers That Capture Your Audience

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Use Your Writing Gifts to Better the World

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Filed under Capturing Audience, Conferences, Speech Openers, Speeches

Five Video Perfect, Speech Opener Ideas

My Web WritersVideo Perfect Speech Ideas

If you’re not using video yet– you should be.  When using video as a way to communicate mass messages, these following five ideas will help you to open with strong and compelling calls-to-attention and to pique your audiences’ interests.

1. Start with a demonstration.

Video presentations can do what would not be nearly as effective in front of a large, live audience. You can open your speech with a hands-on demonstration, talent, or trick – especially one that can be zoomed in on. Many people learn by doing and so a speech that begins with an immediate action captures interest and improves retention. This makes the audience want to know the connection between your demonstration and what you’re about to say next. We like the Shindigz video collection because of the quality and quantity of helpful tips and the ways in which these party products are demonstrated by Wendy and Mary.

2. Add emotion.

A video speech or presentation is also a key opportunity to employ an emotional appeal to your audience. You can begin with a montage of photos with a voiceover, words or a story from someone else or tell a story that is personal to you. Music can greatly enhance the effect of this. Another important benefit of this speech opener is that it helps to create a relationship with the audience. Through video you can sometimes lose that “human element” that you get from a live presentation, but by incorporating emotion you ensure this important element is still present right from the start. We think the Dove Real Beauty Sketches demonstrate how to effectively tug at heartstrings.

3. Incorporate humor.

The use of humor is a tried-and-true technique for many different styles of speeches. Remember that with video, you have the advantage of zooming in on facial expressions to really emphasize the humor in a story.  Telling a joke is a perfect speech opener idea for this medium because it helps to break the ice and set a warm and friendly tone. Whether dry or sarcastic, humor like Apple Coasting will bring a welcome chuckle.

4. Reference another well known speech or video clip.

Countless video clips have risen to stardom overnight after going viral on social media. These have become just about as well known as classic novels, especially depending upon the generation you ask. Including a short clip from a well known viral video as the opener of your own video speech is a great way to capture an audience’s attention and to prime them for your message. Ideally, such a clip should be relatable to the rest of your speech. With the many, many viral videos to choose from, you should be able to find something that can be woven into almost any message.  We think this Cimorelli and Matty B spoof of Cary Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe is a fun way for up-and-coming singers to partner and credit a well-known singer.

5. Do something completely unexpected.

Finally, video speeches are a great opportunity to do something completely unexpected and harness this as an effective opener to capture your audience’s attention. You’re able to zoom-in, edit, add special features and use props much more easily than you could in front of a large, live audience. So stretch your creativity and really think outside the box for an unexpected opener like a special effects trick, goofy song or sound effect. This can be in relation to the topic of the rest of your video speech or it could be a complete contrast that will keep the audience guessing.

There are many great opportunities to open your video speech that will capture your audience’s attention, build your credibility and set the stage for a powerful message.  These are just five to help get you started. They key is to remember that you must tailor your message to your audience and your medium. A video presentation or speech has unique challenges and advantages of which you should be aware and take into consideration. With the right opener and ever-advancing technology, your message can travel as far and as fast as your viewers are inspired to take it!    ~Stephanie & Jean

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Resolve to Include Video in Your Content

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Filed under Giving a Toast, Introductions, Speech Openers, Speeches, Video Production, YouTube

Speech Openers That Capture Your Audience

By My Web Writers

When thinking about famous speech openers I tend to think of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. He opened with that exact line, “I have a dream.” Why does this opening line stand out so much in so many people’s minds? Because it captured everyone’s attention. Are you struggling with how to open an upcoming speech? Although the setting for your speech may not be on the steps of the Lincoln Monument in front of thousands of marchers, you still need to find some way to capture your audience’s attention.

Martin Luther King, Jr. chose to engage his audience with a powerful yet short statement that he had a dream. It’s simplicity was made up for in the genuine and powerful tone of his voice. It expressed conviction, certainty, and optimism. However, not all speech openers need to convey a powerful and compelling tone. Speech openers can be funny, authoritative, or thought-provoking.

Funny Speech Openers
Begin your speech with a joke. A funny joke will break the ice and the laughter will help you feel more relaxed. However, don’t just assume that beginning with a joke requires nothing more than randomly picking a joke out of your library’s joke book and then delivering it for the first time when you open the speech. You need to make sure that the joke is appropriate, the right length, and – well – funny. For a lengthier discussion on this topic, I suggest Social Signal’s blog on The Art of the Opening Joke.

Authoritative Speech Openers
Quote someone famous. Quoting the words of a famous individual will give you an authoritative springboard from which you can develop and share your own unique thoughts. Someone else’s famous words also works to substantiate the quality of your speech because

  • it shows that you spent time preparing the speech or
  • that your expertise has come from being familiar with and studying the important figures in your subject matter.

If you need a little help finding some great quotations to use as your speech opener, visit Famous Quotes at BrainyQuotes. They have thousands of quotes categorized by topic, type, and author.

Thought Provoking Speech Openers
Get your audience invested right from the start by asking a question that causes them to measure their own response against the content of your speech. Not only will your question galvanize their focused attention, if effectively played upon in the body of the speech, the speech opener will hold your audience’s attention throughout the entirety of your speech. Much like the quotation, the question informs the speech’s content in that whatever you share should be answering the opening question. Another benefit of this type of speech opener is that the question can appropriately be used as the speech’s conclusion marking that your speech has brought the question full circle.

Speech Openers and Written Content
Given the value of captivating speech openers in delivering a talk, address, or toast, does this also transfer to a written work? The goal of a speech is the same as the goal for writing. That goal is to capture the reader’s attention and immediately invest them in what your piece has to say. The difference between the nature of the two communicative modes lies in the fact that an unsuccessful speech opener can be salvaged by virtue of an audience who has already blocked out the time to hear one talk or by virtue of the fact that one can readjust the speech opener on a speech-by-speech basis. Written content doesn’t enjoy a scheduled audience nor does it enjoy the flexibility of a live speech. Because you need to make sure that a written opener gets it right prior to being released to the public, outsource your written content to professional, content writers. At the very least, you should always make sure to let someone representative of your audience read it before going to print or going live on your website, Facebook page, or email campaign.

~Lauren

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Filed under Capturing Audience, Speech Openers, Speeches