Do you know how to start a speech successfully? You might need to power up your opening! Here's how to give your audience a greeting they'll remember.
Imagine you're an audience member who hears this from a speaker at the start of a sales pitch:
"Good morning. I'm Glenn Collect-More, president of Collect-More Medical Billing. Our experts help hospitals and medical groups maximize practice revenue. I'm delighted to speak to you this morning. . . . Would you like to increase the number of patients you see in your hospital while reducing your paperwork and expenses?"
This opening looks okay when you see it like this, doesn't it?
But now imagine that everything the speaker said took a total of 14 seconds. He delivered everything in a monotone. None of the words or phrases seemed to have any life to them.
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How successful would you now say this speaker's opening was?
How to Craft a Powerful Speech Introduction
You may remember from your school days that a speech has three parts: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. And while that may be generally true in a broad sense, most presentations include a fourth component: the Greeting.
Your greeting is an essential part of your Introduction because it presents both you and your topic to your audience. It gives listeners a flavor of what will follow. Equally important, it opens up the channel of communication between you and the audience. It tells them whether you're going to be interesting or not. And it gets them to pay maximum attention (or not).
All pretty vital! As a speech coach, I tell my clients and trainees that your greeting is absolutely an element of your speech that can't be neglected.
Once you greet your audience, you need to hook them so they'll pay maximum attention. Discover the most powerful ways for doing that in my e-book, How to Start a Speech.
You Have 30-60 Seconds to Build Your Credibility
If you're like many speakers, you may have said concerning these opening moments of your speeches: "Things felt a little shaky at first. But after 2 or 3 minutes, I got on track and everything went fine after that."
But audiences judge you immediately! So you need to know how to launch a presentation in the critical first 60 seconds! That's all the time you have to get audience members' judgments working in your favor rather than against you. Again, your greeting is precious real estate that you must develop, not let lie fallow.
One scenario that I see often in my executive speech training, is that the speaker's content is actually fine, but it's that person's delivery that is undermining their effectiveness. You may, for instance, say the same thing, so many times to so many audiences, that you forget that these listeners have never heard it before. You may then become guilty of "phoning in your performance," as actors say, instead of investing it with all the energy and passion you're capable of in service to your topic.
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How to Deliver a Strong Presentation or Pitch
The manner in which you start a pitch or presentation, then, will greatly influence whether you grab your audience's attention and get them listening. The selection at the start of this article, for instance, is similar to what I heard last week when I conducted a breakfast workshop for a professional group. One of the attendees volunteered to give us the opening of his "stump pitch," and that is the content (changed for privacy) that I included above.
What I said to the group concerning this opening—and it's an important point—is that there were actually four components to his greeting. Before he asked his "grabbing" question, that is, he did the following: 1) greeted his audience with "Good morning," 2) identified himself, 3) named his company's expertise that might be of interest to prospects, and 4) told his listeners that he was delighted to be speaking to them. After that came his "hook." Before that came the elements of his greeting that he'd specifically included to begin pleasantly and professionally.
The problem was that, although he knew why those elements were there, he'd rattled them off so many times that he'd lost his own interest in the content. He was telegraphing to his audience through his vocal skills (or neglect of them) that it no longer revved his engine to say these things. He needed, in other words, to work on his ways to improve vocal skills for pitches and presentations.
I coached this gentleman briefly, helping him to invest emotionally in his greeting, rather than just rattling it all off. In a short time, he'd caught on, and his vocal delivery skills began to match the important information he was conveying.
His fellow workshop attendees spontaneously applauded his last attempt. Now he had a greeting that accomplished its job, helping to launch his presentation strongly.
This blog was first published in 2015. It is updated here.
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