When it is time to write a speech, one of the tasks we tend to wring our hands over most is the lead. In other words, how to start our speech.
There are many effective ways to kick-off a speech, and many of them can be inspired by the spur of the moment, by our pre-speech interactions with our hosts and arriving audience members. Naturally, though, we want to arrive at our venue with a pre-determined way to launch our talk or discussion. Here are seven options to consider:
Let’s review some examples of each.
Ask a question. By show of hands, how many of you know somebody who has had an out-of-body or after-death experience and came back to tell about it?
Ask (and answer) a rhetorical question. Is the Chinese economy truly destined to become the world’s largest? I insist the answer to that question is “no” because the world’s largest country is on the cusp of a debt-driven economic collapse.
A surprising or amusing fact. The United States, land of the free, has 2.3 million people in its prisons, giving our country the highest incarceration rate in the world.
Pose an argument and then propose to support or debunk it. The surge in U.S. immigration — both legal and illegal — has been good for the American economy.
Single out a person from the audience. The 20 highest-ranking officials of the company are in this room and only one of them is a woman. There is a story to be told here, one of triumph for the lone woman among us, and one of challenge for a company that must do a better job of promoting woman and creating more diversity at the top of its organizational structure.
State a problem you are going to solve during your speech. The number one enemy of the company’s productivity is low employee morale. Before this session is over I’m going to show you how to improve employee morale without changing a single company policy.
Outline a hypothetical scenario. Imagine you have a follow-up meeting with your doctor regarding some symptoms you have been experiencing and the diagnosis is that you have just six months to live. What changes would you make during the final months of your life?
Use a relevant or poignant quote. George Bernard Shaw said: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” There, in a nutshell, is the personality type of the entrepreneur.
These are just seven of the many ways to there are to start a speech, and just a single example of each. Let them serve as inspiration for many more ideas.
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