Beginning a Speech
The audience should be motivated to pay attention to you and get used to you. The first moments are often especially important, because your listeners gain a first impression of you, which is difficult to correct later. In this phase, therefore, pay particular attention to your posture, eye contact, facial expressions and gestures (see Body Language).
- Make connection with the audience
- Gain their attention
- Remind them of the occasion
- Introduce the topic
- Salutation and greeting of the audience
- Definition of the subject of the presentation and its scope as distinct from other (related) topics or issues
- Brief introduction of content and sequence of topics
- Presentation of your professional competence
- Identification of the goals of the presentation
- Indication of practical relevance
Re: a) When a speaker begins to speak, an audience will often be sitting in front of him like a block of ice. With a warm welcome you can melt the ice in the first seconds. But you should avoid the bad habits below.
Re: b) Say your full name slowly and clearly. It is best to ensure that each participant can see your name written in any form. Either make sure it's on the invitation or on a name tag or write it on a board.
Re: c) This gives the participants necessary orientation. Not everyone is familiar with the topic to be presented as well as the presenter, who has been dealing with it for a long time. Slowly bring the participants closer to the topic and develop your thoughts so that they are understandable.
Re: d) Perhaps you are already using visual media here or distributing documents (handouts) so that participants can better follow your explanations. Caution: If you do not intend to stick to a specific sequence of topics, then you should not present this. Otherwise, you may build false expectations. If you are not bound to specific topics, you are more flexible, but you will need to be more careful not to lose the thread. An overview of topics that is clear to the participants throughout the course of the presentation will increase their receptiveness and ability to retain information.
Re: e) This information serves to present your credentials. Give a short description of your career and your activity in relation to the subject of the presentation. You will be more likely to gain the confidence of the participants if you appear to be very knowledgeable in the field you are presenting.
Re: f) Be honest from the start and do not leave participants in the dark as to what you really wish to discuss and why. Almost all participants have experienced often enough that someone pretended wanting merely to inform and advise them only to produce an order form and push for a sale. Be open and fair! This will show your listeners that you take them seriously and appreciate them.
Re: g) Tell participants what they can do with the knowledge you are going to present in their everyday lives. This will increase their attention and interest.
Possibilities for attractive introductions
A current event of the last few days
"Dear Members of the House, in recent days, various nations have carried out underground nuclear tests. The US then imposed sanctions on these nations. The question for us now is how to react to these nuclear tests."
Naming spectacular facts
"Dear listeners, last year, 20% of all newly founded companies achieved a profit of over one million dollars. I will now tell you the reasons for this astonishing development."
"Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Twain once said: 'There is no lift to success - you have to use the stairs.' The same is true of the opportunities for advancement in our company. However, in the next twenty minutes, you will learn how to climb this staircase one step at a time, as fast as possible."
"Ladies, emancipation means the legal and social equality of women with men. The liberation from a state of dependence. But emancipation does not mean that ..."
"Ladies and gentlemen, few days ago I witnessed a bad traffic accident. Two cars collided. One of the drivers died at the accident site, the other was seriously injured and brought to a hospital. As the press reported the next day, these dramatic consequences could have been prevented if the drivers had used their seatbelts. Let us think together about how we can more effectively point out the dangers facing drivers and passengers."
"Dear guests, according to statistical estimates of the British intelligence service, about one in ten Britons is suicidal. Accordingly, there are at least 20 suicide candidates here among us."
Ask a question or pose a problem
Tip: If you ask a rhetorical question, then you should not wait too long before you answer the question yourself, otherwise you might get an instant response from the audience that you did not expect.
"If you're traveling by car in the mountains, can you completely exclude the possibility of another car crashing into you and knocking you off a cliff? No - you cannot, and yet you still drive calmly and trust that it will not happen. If you form a partnership, can you completely exclude the possibility of your partner cheating on you one day? No - you cannot. And often as a result, you are unable to trust your partner, you develop doubts and anxieties, which ultimately destroy the partnership by themselves."
Humor or funny story
"Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin with a brief story: a drunk man was searching for his key under a lantern. Then a passerby steps in and asks the man: 'What are you looking for?' 'My key,' the drunk man answers. Both now search for the key. You cannot find it. So, the passerby asks: 'Are you sure that you lost your key here?' - 'No, I lost it back there, but it's too dark there…' [Pause]
"Maybe we too should start looking for savings opportunities somewhere else."
When nothing else occurs
"Hello, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to my presentation on the topic ..."
Show a motivating slide
It often makes sense to memorize the first few sentences of a presentation and make a literal note of it on your keyword script. The latter also applies to:
- the names of guests or special participants to be addressed or mentioned
- the exact formulation of the presentation’s goal(s).
You should not begin with
- an apology, e.g., "Actually, I'm not a good speaker... "
- meaningless words, e.g., "Today I have the extraordinary joy ... "
- "Welcome to all those present": Avoid this impersonal, blank salutation. No one likes to be characterized by the fact that he is "present"! "Dear guests of our company, dear colleagues, dear friends of Baroque music": Speeches of this kind are many times more personal and individual!
- "... I am glad that you have appeared in such numbers". This phrase, which is so popular with bad speakers, is logical nonsense: Not a single listener has appeared "in numbers". In addition, no listener will be pleased if the speaker measures the audience interest in quantities. Just say: "I am glad to be able to welcome you here tonight!" Or - in a more intimate circle - "I am glad that you have come!"