It is said that people remember the first and last minutes of your speech. To ensure that you start well here are three simple suggestions.
1. Learn the first three opening sentences off by heart. Learn them so that you have memorised the words, the thoughts and feelings that go with them. Practice them so that you have them in a way that you really want them to sound. Practice different ways of delivering them, different emphasis, different expression and then get really comfortable with the ones that you have chosen.
2. Practice standing still and ‘nesting’ before you start your opening.
That means walking into the speaking space, standing still, pausing for a couple of seconds and starting with the words that you planned on using.
3. Decide who you are going to look at and what body language and facial expressions you are going to use. This could make all the difference to how you are conveyed and how receptive your audience is to you. Do you start with a huge smile or is your audience getting plunged into a serious situation so maybe a more stern look is the way to grab their attention.
And a fourth if you are using a Slide Deck!
Know exactly what slides will be appearing and when so that you never have to look back or down to see what comes up on the screen. I rehearsed a keynote endlessly but on the actual night I got ahead of myself skipping over an essential slide and had to backtrack. Naturally I was very cross with myself, but I also just kept going and didn’t highlight the mistake or fuss over an apology.
A well-rehearsed opening will not only grab the attention of the audience but will give you the confidence that you know how to start regardless of what has been said before or what is happening in the room at the moment of delivery. Just make sure you start at the beginning not with a preamble, a “So……” or other distracting fluff that is unnecessary. A strong opening can a be simple and powerful tool that can set up a great presentation.