Hollywood Lessons: Make your Speech Opening Strong

You get one chance to make first impression. This hold true for speakers – even when presenting to an audience consisting of colleagues or clients you have known for a long time… When starting any speech or presentation you need to make a positive impression – one that forces each audience member to sit up and think about the topic you are presenting.


It is easy to fall into the trap of convincing yourself that because you are standing in front of the room your audience will automatically start listening to you. Wrong!


Let’s for one moment think about the last movie you watched. I’m sure the opening scenes were suspenseful, intriguing, and attention grabbing…. Why? As an audience member you’ve paid good money to get your seat in the theatre to watch the movie. Surely the director know this, so there’s no need to put to much effort into the opening scenes????


If it’s good enough for a Hollywood blockbuster. It’s good enough for your next presentation.


Each member of your audience has many things they are thinking about. Your job as the director, producer, and lead actor in your public speaking blockbuster is get the attention of those who have come to see your presentation.


There are several techniques you can leverage to make your opening interesting and attention grabbing for your audience.


Use a Relevant Quote

Select a quote that relates to the topic of your presentation. The best quotes are going to have a intrigue or thought proking element to them. These are often delivered by less famous people. The well-known quotes, such as JFK’s “Ask not what the country can do for you…” quote are tired and clichéd. Using a well known quote can actually harm your opening – so identify a relevant, lesser-known quote to get the attention of your audience.


Relevant (and shocking) Statistics

One of the best methods to get someone to listen to you is to tell them something they don’t know and challenging their thought process. This can be achieved by sharing a statistic or fact that you know will challenge their assumptions or beliefs. Obviously you will need to avoid shocking people for the sake of simply getting their attention. There must be someway to link the fact or statistic you are sharing with them to the subject you will be discussing in your speech.


Sharing a Story

At heart we are all big kids. And, when someone shares a story we want to listen – provided its relevant. If you can find a story that is directly relatable to your subject and reinforces the message you are sharing in your speech you have the makings of a very powerful speech opening. And, the more personal the story to you or your audience the more impactful and attention grabbing it will be.


We don’t have a divine right to the attention of our audience simply because we are standing in front of them. Like a good Hollywood blockbuster your presentations need to use the opening scenes to draw your audience into the rest your presentation. Leverage the techniques discussed above to turn your presentations into dynamic blockbusters!


Thanks to Batman Begins for the image… One of my favourite movies with a great opening scene!
About The Author

Mark Kyte

Mark Kyte is a public speaking mentor and founder of the Public Speaking Skills Academy. Mark loves helping clients achieve dynamic results that help them increase their influence and get more clients. Read more of his blog and if you like what you see check out the mentoring programs.