Why You Should Have Three Speech Opens

speech open

Too many presentations and speeches fail to take immediate flight because the precious opening moments are taken up by small talk and introductions.

We don’t want to go so far as to say you’ve squandered your chance to reel your audience in with your speech open. However, you certainly have made your job a lot harder than it needs to be.

The most effective presenters don’t rely on just one open. They employ several.

In this post, we’ll show you how to effectively use the power of a three-part speech open.

Open Your Speech with a Trio

Since the way you open a speech is the beacon that brings the audience to your message, you don’t want to muddy it up with logistical housekeeping details, pleasantries, and formalities. You certainly don’t want to be boring. Yet, those appreciative remarks are often necessary.

By employing a three-part open, a speaker ensures that the details don’t overtake the message. We break down how to open a speech with the pre-open, the open, and post-open:

Pre-open: Salutations are dispatched within the pre-opening. These speech greetings openers – those “good mornings” and “thank-yous” – should take no more than a few lines if any at all.

Open: These are the words that hook your audience. Whether straightforward, traditional, creative, or innovative, your open reels them in. The most effective opens are engaging and directly related to your presentation’s main message. How do you find your open? You can shape an open out of your personal story, deliver a surprising statistic, or ask a rhetorical question. Perhaps, you connect the present to the past or imagine a different future. There are many ways to do this.

To get you started, we offer more than two dozen speech openers here.

Post-open: A blend of logistics and messaging, the post-open incorporates details about scheduled breaks and expected length of your talk. It also provides the roadmap for your talk. These are the last words before you transition to the body of your talk. The post-open is an opportunity to help the audience understand what they need to do next: Will they have to take notes? Are you providing handouts? Are you taking questions? You also can use this time to acknowledge or introduce the hosts, distinguished guests, or key organizers.

Before we move on to how to put all three together, it’s important to point out that there are times when an open can leap straight to the narrative without a pre-open. In the following clip, anti-racism activist and educator Jane Elliott immediately engages the audience with a provocative opening during a diversity workshop and training.

Putting Your Open Together

The ultimate success of a three-part opening is a seamless flow from pre-open to post-open. As you can see in the example that follows, a pre-open can be a simple statement. It moves you from a quick introduction into the heart of your talk.

Here, we consider how a CEO of a large investment firm might open her talk while addressing a group of entry-level employees:

Pre-open/salutations: “Good morning.”

Open: “You may not think I know what it is like to struggle, but at your age I was scraping for pennies, working two jobs, and still barely managing to pay my rent. When I was 22, I was nearly evicted from my apartment. I was about as low as one can go – but that low point was also motivating for me. I decided never to be so close to financial ruin again. It took a while – and more 19-cent grocery store ramen noodle soup dinners than I care to remember – but I finally learned to make my money work as hard as I did. If there is one thing that I hope you remember by the time I am through, it is this: You can’t be a great financial advisor to your clients until you become a great financial advisor to yourself.”

Post-open: “Before I continue, I’d like to thank this team’s leadership for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to welcome you in person. I plan to speak for about a half-hour, but then I want to hear from you. I’ll begin 25 years ago, when [transition to first point.]”