Movies and television shows don’t start with the big reveal. Essays and articles don’t put their conclusions first. Your speech is no different — audiences want you to slowly but deftly ease them into the topics of your speeches. (Foreplay would be another apt analogy, but let’s keep this PG.) Successful introductions establish three things first and foremost:
1. A comfort level and rapport between you and your audience
2. Who you are
3. Your point — what you’re going to be discussing — and its relevance
Not all intros fit the bill. For example, you may want to start with the funniest joke or anecdote in the world, but if it doesn’t connect with these objectives, it does you no good.
Suggestions for strong introductions:
1. “My name is X, and I’ve been asked to speak to you about Y because Z.”
This is not the most sophisticated or original way to begin a speech, but since it meets the objectives, it’ll do. Just be sure to nail down and memorize these first few lines, so they don’t trip you up.
2. “Good morning, my name is X. Maybe you saw the headline in today’s paper about ….”
Connecting your point to recent news conveys timeliness and relevance, but also sets you up as someone concerned about the world at large and your place in it.
3. “Good morning, my name is X, and I’m here to talk to you about Y. I’d actually like to begin with something funny my six-year-old said to me this morning that relates to why we’re here….”
Revealing a personal moment humanizes you immediately, giving your audience an avenue through which they can instantly relate. It also opens up opportunities for humor: “… later I told my child if he wanted to share news with me, to just tweet it.”
4. “Hi, my name is X. Let’s start with a question: How many of you have ever tried Y?”
Starting with a question is a traditional tactic, yet still effective. But don’t just ask rhetorically — solicit a response. It draws your audience into the discussion and engages them immediately, even if the number of hands raised proves absolutely nothing.
Remember, you’re taking your audience on a learning journey. Do what all good tour guides do at the start: be human, be likable, and prep your audience for what’s ahead.