26 Ways To Start a Speech and Capture People's Attention

Updated March 10, 2023

A person at a podium addresses rows of listeners. A spotlight is on the speaker so the audience is backlit in a darkened room.

People give speeches for many events in their personal and professional lives, including fundraising galas, industry conferences, company meetings, weddings and school reunions. One challenging element of writing a speech is deciding how to introduce yourself and your topic to your audience. Learning a variety of methods for beginning a speech can allow you to choose an ideal introduction for every speech you give.

In this article, we describe 26 different ways to begin a speech and explain how each type of introduction can help you convey information and connect with your audience.

How to start a speech in 26 ways

Here are 26 different techniques for beginning your speech:

1. Use a quote

One method of starting a speech and gaining the audience's attention is to use a famous or relatable quote. This approach can give your audience context for your topic and connect it to something they recognize. For instance, if you plan to give a speech on a political topic, you might use a famous quote about your speech's subject.

Related: How To Start a Speech

2. Tell a joke

You might also tell a joke or use a humorous approach to engage the audience. Telling a joke or making light-hearted conversation with your audience can allow you to connect with the people who are attending your presentation. If you use this approach, choose an appropriate joke that relates to your topic.

Related: 16 Essential Benefits of Using Humor in the Workplace

3. Find a commonality with your audience

You might introduce yourself by highlighting what you have in common with your audience. This can encourage them to pay attention to your speech. For example, if you're speaking at an industry convention, you might explain what you do in that industry to show your audience that you share their priorities and concerns.

Related: 5 Ways To Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

4. Ask a survey question

Another effective method for starting your speech is to ask a question. You might ask a literal question and have the audience answer by a show of hands or calling out answers. This can encourage audience involvement and engagement in your speech.

5. Pose a problem

When you start your speech, you can also pose a problem to the audience. As you deliver your speech and reach the conclusion, offer a solution to the problem you posed in your introduction. For instance, a speech or presentation on climate change might start with a statement of the problem using firm declarative statements.

6. Offer a relatable statistic

Another effective way to start a speech is by offering a statistic that relates to the topic. Choosing a statistic that's both relevant and surprising can pique the audience's interest. For instance, a presentation on gun safety might start with a statistic showing the high rates of accidental shootings in the audience's city or state.

Related: 10 Tips for Giving a Great Presentation

7. Tell a fictional story

You might also begin your speech with a story that relates to the topic. This story can be completely fictional or have some basis in reality, as long as it highlights some of the key points you plan to make in your speech. For example, if you're giving a speech on the value of the arts in school, you might create a story about a fictional student whose arts education helped them to become successful in other areas.

Related: How To Tell a Compelling Story at Work (With an Example)

8. Describe a personal experience

Describing a personal experience you had that relates to the topic can engage your audience's attention and show your experience with the content in your speech. You can also use this approach to connect with your audience and invoke certain emotions. For example, a guest speaker at a cancer research benefit might describe their own experience with cancer treatments at the beginning of their fundraising speech.

9. Give a demonstration

Depending on your presentation, you might also consider giving a demonstration. Demonstrative speeches can be effective in a variety of settings, and this approach can work well in presenting technical data and research projects. For instance, if you wanted to present the findings on the increase and impact of invasive aquatic plant species, you might demonstrate how you performed your research or collected your data.

Related: How To Write a Captivating How-To Speech

10. Use visuals

Similar to a demonstration, using visuals can also be effective for starting a speech because it can physically show your audience the effects of a topic on a community. For instance, using the example of invasive plant species, you might use photos, graphs or charts to communicate the hazards of ignoring the effects of invasive plants. The visuals might show invasive plants affecting the native wildlife.

Related: 13 Tips for PowerPoint Presentations

11. Recognize your audience

Some events celebrate their attendees along with their speakers, so if your audience members have achieved a certain goal, you can start your speech by recognizing them for their achievements. This approach can develop mutual respect between the audience and the speaker. For example, a keynote speaker at a company-wide conference might begin by praising the audience of employees for their record-breaking profits in the previous year before beginning their remarks.

Related: How To Write a Five-Minute Speech

12. Provide background information about the event

If you're the first or only speaker at a special event, you might begin your speech by explaining the history or goal of the event. This information can help your audience understand why your speech is important and provide valuable context for your comments. For example, if you're speaking at a fundraiser for a social action organization, you might explain how long the organization's been active in your city and what the members have achieved so far.

Related: How To Write Talking Points: Steps and Tips

13. Predict objections

If your topic contains controversial elements, you might encounter objections from your audience, especially if your goal is to persuade them to agree with your perspective. By mentioning the objections you think your audience might have and addressing them, you might change your audience's minds. For example, if you're presenting a costly solution to a problem, you might begin by acknowledging the high cost of your solution and then explaining why it's worth the expense.

14. Challenge the audience

Another way to begin a speech with divisive or controversial elements is to challenge your audience to reflect on their own position. For example, you might begin a speech about conservation by asking audience members to analyze their own energy use. You might provide writing utensils and notepads to make it easy for audience members to write down their answers.

15. Give a detailed description

Describing products, places or actions with descriptive language can capture your audience's imagination and attention. You might ask your audience members to close their eyes as you take them on an imaginary tour of a proposed new business or outdoor space. When you provide a description, engage multiple senses by including details about how things look, sound, smell or taste.

16. Incorporate shared narratives

Shared cultural stories, like myths, fables and fairy tales, can give your audience a familiar reference for content in your speech. Because many of these stories contain morals, you can also use them to reinforce your message. If you plan to choose a myth or fairy tale to begin your speech, describe the story briefly and emphasize the idea that the story shares with your speech's topic.

17. Define your concept

If you're speaking about a philosophical or technical concept, it's often helpful to begin your speech with a definition of your core concept. This approach can help audience members who are less familiar with the concept connect your speech to their existing knowledge. For example, if you're speaking at an industry conference about a specific type of HR software, you might start by describing the key parts of this software type.

18. Share your background

Often, speakers at events have specialized experience with the subject of their presentations. If you have skills or experiences that qualify you to speak about your topic, you might start your speech by briefly stating your qualifications. This approach can be useful at industry or scholarly conferences because it establishes your credibility.

19. Start with an interactive activity

You can engage your audience and provide context for your speech by starting with a structured collaborative activity. Depending on the topic and venue, you might ask your audience members to speak to their neighbors or to form small discussion groups, where they answer pre-prepared questions. This approach might be ideal when you have a longer time available to you, so you can still deliver all of your remarks.

20. Pose a rhetorical question

Rhetorical questions ask audience members to reflect on a certain topic. If you're delivering a speech that answers a certain question, you can pose that question at the beginning of the speech to give your audience a preview of the topic and encourage them to think about it. Then, you can provide your answer to the question at the climax of your speech.

21. Ask for audience volunteers

In some cases, it might be effective to lead a demonstration using audience volunteers, which can engage the audience. This approach might be effective if your audience members are already familiar with your basic topic. For example, an HR director might begin a speech on conflict management by asking a few employees to come to the front and roleplay a common workplace conflict.

22. Refer to a relevant current event

If your topic connects to a trend or event that your audience knows about, you might begin your speech by summarizing the event or trend. This can help your audience connect their experiences to your speech's content. For example, a speaker at a work event might mention a recent report on the state of the industry and connect it to the content of their speech.

23. Reflect on the theme of the event

Many professional events have specific themes, like growth or resilience. You can begin your speech by discussing the key theme and explaining what that theme means to you. This approach can help you connect with an audience who may already be thinking critically about the event's theme.

24. Preview your call to action

If your speech ends with a call to action, or a statement encouraging your audience to perform a certain task, you might foreshadow that call to action in the beginning. This approach can give your speech structural unity and get your audience to think about how they might accomplish the task you set them. Fundraisers often use this tactic, where they begin a speech by telling their audience how much money they plan to ask for in pledges.

Related: What Is a Call to Action? (Definition and 17 Examples)

25. State an expert's opinion

If you're speaking about an industry-specific topic or other researched concept, you can start your speech by sharing what an expert in the field says about the topic. Using an expert's opinion can give your speech credibility with audience members, especially if they're already familiar with the expert's work. You can use a direct quote or paraphrase their comments.

Related: What Is Persuasive Speech? (Plus 10 Tips for Creating One)

26. Create a mantra or tagline

If your speech focuses on how to do something, you might begin your speech by giving your audience an acronym or mantra that summarizes the process. Then, you can use the rest of the speech to describe each step. This approach can help your audience remember each step of your speech after you've delivered it.

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