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July 21, 2017 / subramanyam

How should I open my speech?

This was a question on Quora and I was asked to Answer. This is the answer I wrote on Quora. 

The opening line of a speech is arguably one of the most important lines of the speech. This line must be inline to the purpose of the speech.

Before penning down that line, I would ask you to get clarity on the following.
1. What is the generic purpose of the speech?
2. What is the specific purpose of the speech?

A generic purpose of the speech can be one of the following.
1. To Inform
2. To Entertain
3. To Persuade
4. To Inspire

A specific purpose of the speech is the one line message you want the audience to carry after you are done with the speech.

For example: Imagine you want to give a speech on the importance of using alternate sources of energy.

The generic purpose of the speech would be to persuade the audience.

The specific purpose would be to use renewable sources of energy instead of the fossil fuels.

Now that you know the purpose of the speech, Pen down the opening statement accordingly.

Never start with your name or credentials when speaking to a known/unknown audience.

If the purpose of the speech is to inform:
1. Start with a quote on stats (Statistics). You would get a lot of quotes on the INTERNET  on statistics. Try using the one that suits you.
2. If your stats tell a story, try writing a line that gives the listener a hint of the story. In other a personal quote of your own.  In this case you can try a little humor too.  However, remember Humor is an addon only.

If the purpose of the speech is to entertain:
1. Start with a small story /anecdote/ pre -written joke that sets the atmosphere. I personally would go with a personal story/anecdote.

If the purpose of the speech is to Persuade/ Inspire:
1. Again start with a story/quote that suits the specific purpose of the speech.
2. Picking persuasive and inspiring quotes from the internet is easy, however, if you want to write your own story and present it, you can do that too.
3. When writing your own story, try making it a personal story. Start with a date, have names to every character in the story.

Instead of saying “the other day, I was playing with niece” you can start your speech like this. “14-Feb-2015, I was playing with the most beautiful girl I ever knew, my five year old niece Varsha”.

Some times , describing the nature too helps.  You can probably ask your audience to imagine a wonderful winter morning or a fantastic friday evening etc.

Hope this helps.


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