The Perfect Opening

Your audience’s opinion of you starts the moment you take the stage and open your mouth. The perfect opening to a great speech is important, but not difficult to deliver if you stick to a few guidelines. Today we’ll talk about how to decide on the perfect one for your topic and speaking style.

Should you use humor?

This one can be a bit tricky. Are you naturally funny? Would your friends and colleagues describe you that way? If so, great!

However, you don’t want to start your speech with forced humor. That can leave your audience puzzled and give them a negative impression of you right off the bat. Whether it’s your natural style or not, if you do decide to start with a joke, make sure it’s relevant to your speech topic, inoffensive (hint: leave the two killer topics of politics and religion out), and short. Tell it in such a way that it leads naturally into the body of your speech.

If you’re still unsure, remember that a joke is nothing more than something that makes people laugh. Funnyman and Toastmaster Rick Olson has some great tips.

What other options are there?

  • – A shocking statement or a statistic is a great way to open a speech. Are there surprising changes coming in your industry or something your client can do to make a big impact in the field? Using a surprising opening fact or statistic is a great way to begin. Here’s an example: 75% of business and IT executives anticipate their projects will fail. This is an opener that will grab your audience’s attention and make them want to hear more.
  • – Try using a catchphrase. These are short statements that bring something concrete to mind, often a particular product or industry. Just think of “Got Milk?” or “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.” to be reminded of the impact a catchphrase can have.
  • – Begin with a story. Weaving a story through your speech is a great way to capture and hold audience interest. A personal story creates empathy in your audience and makes them want to root for you and your success in both your story and your speech.
  • – Try bringing out an object. It’s a great way to represent your idea and kick off your speech. If your subject is too large or impractical to bring on stage, a smaller representation, such as a model, can work, too. A physical object makes a lasting impression on your audience.
  • – Involve your audience. Start out with a question such as, “How many of you made New Year’s resolution last year?” Beginning your speech with a question gets the audience directly involved right away and keeps them thinking and listening as you speak.

Whatever opening you chose, just be yourself! Let your energy and enthusiasm show. Genuine passion for your subject is the most attractive quality you can possess.

Have you tried any of this tips? Or do you have some to share? I would love to hear your thoughts on great openers! Drop me a line and let me know what you think.

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Using Humor In Your Speech

Learning how to effectively intertwine humor in your speech is essential to establishing yourself as a notable speaker. We all want to entertain our audience effortlessly but you need to use sound judgement when using humor; sometimes it is appropriate and sometimes it is not.

Using humor can be effective in almost any speech, it can be a good way to break up tension or lighten up the mood. It can also be used to break the ice; speakers that employ humor connect quicker with their audience and are deemed more likable by their listeners.

“Humor is treacherous. It can charm, coax, and persuade, but it can also distract, baffle or alienate the audience.” Eugene Finerman

Also, you can use humor to add variety to your speech to keep your audience interested. Weave in jokes or a funny, small story or anecdote to your topic to keep the flow of information balanced.

However, you should always make sure that your joke fits in with your topic. No matter how funny that joke was that you heard the night before, refrain from using it if it does not apply to your topic.

How to Use Humor

  • Plan your humor according to your audience– The professional level and overall age of your listeners will play a huge part in what will be appropriate and conversely what might be offensive. What listeners will find funny will vary with different groups, so do your research beforehand.
  • Laugh at yourself– Although no wants to see you put yourself down constantly in your speech, the audience does like to see some vulnerability in the form of humor. You can add this by telling a funny story about something that actually happened to you and this will increase your credibility with your audience by making you seem more real.
  • Keep working at it– Using humor in a speech can be difficult, proper use takes time to develop. Try to use steady and gradual improvement to avoid a “flop” and major

How Not to Use Humor

  • Do not try too hard- We have all witnessed someone that uses humor or tries to tell a joke that clearly was recycled from someone else and it is awkward. If you try to use humor that is not your style, it just doesn’t work and is not funny.
  • Do Not Make the audience the “butt” of your jokes – Nobody wants to be the target of anyone’s jokes, it is offensive to most people.
  • Be on the safe side – Do not make jokes about race, sex, religion or politics. For most people, these are sensitive subjects and should be left out of your jokes.

The Video Use Humor in Speechs by Toastmasters International shows you some do’s and do not’s of using humor in your speech.

Implementing humor in your speech is not easy and can be very intimidating. However, if used correctly you can create rapport with your listeners or if used incorrectly you can create a wedge.

My challenge to you is to break out of your comfort zone and use these tips in your next speech to engage your audience and make them laugh!

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