Article Category: Speechwriting

Electrify Your Audience with a Shocking Speech Opening


Shocking Speech OpeningA strong speech opening is critical to grab the attention of your audience.

Suppose you were delivering a speech to raise awareness in your community about school security. How would you open your speech?

  • I’m going to talk to you today about security in our schools…
  • School security is an important issue that we must deal with…

Both openings are direct, to-the-point, and boring! What if there was a better way?

A Better Speech Opening

Great speakers know how to open a speech in a way that hooks the audience into the presentation immediately. (Opening strong is one of the 25 essential skills for public speakers.) There are many ways to do this, including the use of drama and misdirection.

Imagine opening your speech with the following lines:

Tobacco. [long pause]
Alcohol. [long pause]
Guns. [long pause]
Criminal items seized in a search [slight pause] of a 6th grade locker in a bad school district.

Why does this speech opening work?

Beginning the speech in this way generates interest for several reasons:

  • Employs a classical technique: the Rule of Three.
  • Seized in a search of a sixth…” uses alliteration.
  • Pauses after the three opening words add drama.
  • Drama also created because the danger increases with each item (i.e. guns are more dangerous than alcohol and tobacco)
  • Mid-sentence pause after “search” signals an important statement coming up.
  • Audience thinks these items were seized from some criminal hideout, and then surprised to learn they were found in a school locker.
  • All this in just 19 words.

If these items really were seized from a nearby school district, then you’ve got a “ripped from the headlines” opening. Otherwise, you might transition into the rest of your speech with “We must act decisively to prevent this from becoming reality in our schools.

Try adding drama and surprise to grab the audience early in your next speech! Begin strong and keep going…

This article is inspired by index card wisdom from Jessica Hagy.

This is one of many public speaking articles featured on Six Minutes.
Subscribe to Six Minutes for free to receive future articles.