The hardest part of being on stage is starting any speech with confidence. First impressions are the most important, and if you don’t have the right opening line, everything is destined to fall apart.
Opening any speech can be a true challenge. But regardless of how daunting it may seem, you can never underestimate the importance of doing it right.
Here are four things you need on your side when you OPEN your speech so you can truly reel in your listeners!
- O – Originality
- P – Purpose
- E – Engagement
- N – Narrative
I’ve been a corporate emcee for a while, and I’ve learned plenty of tricks about crafting the best opening lines. The first few seconds of any speech are of the utmost importance, and I can help you maximize your potential!
Below, I’ll let you in on three of the best opening lines for any emcee, as well as tips and tricks to make your introduction that much better!
#1. Is The Opening Line Really That Important?
Giving a speech is not for the faint of heart. It’s a challenging task that can be very demanding, even for the best of us!
As a corporate emcee, I’ve had plenty of practice delivering opening lines. And one of the best parts is seeing the audience change from apprehensive strangers to a sea of trusty listeners!
But something I’ve noticed is that some speakers don’t realize the true importance of an opening line. And that’s one of the first mistakes you can make as a master of ceremonies.
First impressions really matter. It’s something we’re all familiar with, and this fact is even backed by science.
The Real Reason Why First Impressions Matter
The importance of first impressions is due to something known as the primacy effect.
The primacy effect is the tendency of people to remember things in a sequence and recall the first thing most vividly. For example, if you’re given a list of items, you’re more likely to remember the first item on the list above all else.
The same goes for your audience. The first things you say to them will stick in their mind! And you don’t want to leave them remembering something bad.
The Perfect Time To Grab Your Audience’s Attention
The first seconds of your speech are critical for more reasons than one.
As I said before, the first moments of your speech will determine a lot. It’s truly the first impression you make to your audience.
But that’s not the only reason why it’s so critical. It’s also the most instrumental moment of your speech for grabbing your audience’s attention.
If you don’t seize your listeners right away, they’ll quickly fade away. And especially in today’s age, attention spans are getting shorter than ever.
Because people are constantly tethered to their phones and social media, it’s harder to get and keep their attention.
That’s why those first few moments are nearly the only chance to you have to reel in your audience. So don’t let them slip away!
More Than An Attention-Grabbing Moment
Yes, you need to primarily focus on captivating your listeners with your introduction. But you still need to do more than that.
It’s up to you to persuade your audience that you’re worth listening to. You have the reigns on stage, and you need to be assertive in your speaking.
It’s your first chance to earn your audience’s trust. If you want your listeners to actually pay attention to what you’re saying, you need to ensure they have faith in your words.
#2. The Elements Of Great Opening Lines
Understanding the importance of your opener is only one part of crafting a great speech.
If you don’t understand why those first few moments matter so much, you won’t treat them as delicately as you should.
But now, it’s time to really dive into the meat and potatoes of a fantastic opening line. You still need to comprehend what it takes to make your first impression truly magical and captivating!
I’ll use the acronym OPEN to break down the four essential elements of any speech opening.
Let’s get into it!
Delving into what makes a speech stand out can be a long and tedious process.
First off, it’s important to understand that each speech is unique, and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all opener.
Before anything else, you need to analyze your audience to understand how you should craft your opening line. Using fill-in-the-blanks or clichés is definitely not the way to go.
And that brings me to my first point.
Originality is the foundation of any great opening line. Without it, your speech is destined to be labeled as dull, boring, or bland.
You need to stand out! And the best way to do so is by being authentic and genuine.
This means you should make sure to avoid clichés or generic openings that the audience may have heard before. You don’t want the first thing they think when you start talking is, “Hm… this sounds a bit too familiar!”
Instead, think creatively and find a unique angle or perspective. That’ll not only elevate your speech, but it’ll ensure your opener is strong and captivating.
A great way to stay original is by using a surprising statistic, an intriguing quote, or a captivating story.
If it challenges common assumptions or stimulates curiosity, you’re off to a great start.
Even if the opening line of your keynote speech is completely original and catches your audience pleasantly off-guard, that’s not always enough to establish a fantastic opener.
In addition to originality, your opener needs to have a purpose. Clearly articulating the purpose of your speech is crucial for setting the stage and generating interest.
A clearly defined purpose will help keep your listeners intrigued beyond the first few lines.
Then, they’ll be interested to hear more of your speech!
You’ll need to let the audience know the specific goal of your presentation in a fun and enticing way. Are you informing them about a groundbreaking discovery? Or are you perhaps entertaining them with an engaging story?
Clearly communicate the relevance and significance of your topic to the audience, and highlight why it matters. If the audience doesn’t feel like the purpose applies to them, then there’s no point in continuing.
Defining the purpose is half the battle, and the other half is applying it to your listeners!
Clearly communicating the purpose of your speech helps the audience understand the value of listening and even creates anticipation for what is to come.
As I said before, it’s important to grab your audience’s attention right away. You only have a few seconds to make a great first impression and gain your listener’s trust.
If you fail, your entire speech might as well be for nothing!
The key to keeping and maintaining the interest of your listeners is by prioritizing engagement.
Audience engagement is the key to hosting a successful event. Not only do you need it in your opener, but you need it throughout your entire act.
It’s up to you as the keynote speaker to find interactive ways to involve the audience and make them active participants. As a corporate emcee, I have plenty of tricks up my sleeves to keep my crowd always engaged and interacting.
And they’re probably the most critical tools in my emcee toolbelt!
Make sure your speech is engaging in and of itself. Ask thought-provoking questions that get your listeners to think and reflect. Use rhetoric to encourage them to think about the topic from a new perspective.
Feel free to also use plenty of dynamic activities and interactive elements to get them even more engaged.
You can never have too much!
As a speaker, you likely use stories to get your point across. After all, storytelling is one of the oldest and most effective forms of communication, and it shouldn’t go unnoticed!
Humans are naturally drawn to stories, so leveraging the power of narrative in your speech introduction can be highly effective. It’s a great way to both engage and entice your listeners.
If you want to deliver a great opener, you should use stories. Try sharing a compelling personal story that relates to your topic. Or tell a relatable anecdote that captures the essence of your speech.
When it comes down to it, don’t overthink it. If it’s a great story, your listeners are sure to bite!
Through storytelling, you can tap into the audience’s emotions, making them more receptive and connected to your message.
It’s truly one of the best ways to make your opening lines captivating.
#3. Three Example Opening Lines To Help You Start Strong
Great opening lines are the foundation of any great speech. This point in your act is the most critical, and you can’t sit idly by and expect something fantastic to happen on its own!
With the information I’ve given you so far, you’re on your way to crafting a unique, interesting, and engaging opener. But if you need a bit more assistance, keep reading!
Sometimes, the best way to learn something is by seeing a great example. You can understand the theory, but seeing something put into practice can elevate your understanding in a new way.
So, let’s dive into the three best opening line ideas for your upcoming speech.
#1. – Use A Quote
Something that has all the elements of a fantastic opener is a quote. It’s a great way to bring in a dash of familiarity and authority to a speech.
Here’s an example from Steve Jobs: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.”
This line is incredible as it adds amazing credibility and power to the speech.
#2. – Tell A Story
Storytelling is perhaps one of the best ways to open any speech. Not only can you open the evening with it, but you can use stories throughout your time on stage as well.
Personal stories not only make you more personable, but they help your audience connect to you on another level. It’s like a true bonding experience!
#3. – Use A Fact
If you want to make your introduction truly pop, a great way to do so is by involving the facts. No one can safely shy away from statistics!
Plus, opening with facts shows your audience that you’ve done your research and you’re a true authority figure on the subject. It can even transform a boring speech topic into something more intriguing and interesting.
Delivering a killer speech opening can be a challenging task. But as long as you know how to craft the right opener for your audience, there’s nothing you can’t do!
Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.