Once you take the stage you have a narrow window of opportunity to capture your audience. Jump right into your point rather than wasting time on an unnecessary and often redundant introductions or banalities. Tease with your main point by making a bold assertion, with startling facts or statistics to immediately grab the audience's attention. Ask a question to get them thinking, which engages them automatically into your speech. Challenge your audience to see an ordinary subject in a new way.
Despite the fact it requires the barest minimum of physical risk, public speaking is near the top of the list of human phobias. Speakers fear they will be judged, humiliated or made to look like fools if they say the wrong thing or, worse, freeze in front of a crowd. The critical opening of your speech gives you only a few minutes to capture the attention of your audience. There are some do's, and definitely don'ts, to make this process a challenge almost anyone can tackle.
Simple data can often be dry and lifeless, albeit necessary for the purpose of your speech. Flesh this boring skeleton out by telling a story that supports your overall point. Referring to pop culture can give your audience an instant connection to your material, but a personal testimony connects you with your audience and puts a human face on your speech. It also helps gain the audience's trust that you are a knowledgeable person to deliver the information.
A Note About Humor
A natural instinct might be to open with a joke just to break the ice, but this can be a tricky proposition if you are not comfortable delivering jokes in front of an audience. Humor is subjective, and you can lose parts of your audience just as quickly as you get others on your side. Subtle self-depreciating humor is a better way to start your speech, although this type of humor should be used in moderation.
Maintain Your Authority
Even if you begin with a casual self-depreciating joke to break the ice between you and your audience, you don't want to undermine your own authority from the onset. Don't verbalize your insecurities, thinking that the audience will empathize with your discomfort. Avoid comments that suggest you are not prepared or ill-at-ease in front of the audience. By doing so, you are setting them up immediately to find fault with you or your delivery, which smashes that small window of opportunity you have to capture their interest and successfully make your point.
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