shy girl speaking

This is part 3 of my blog series on public Speaking. You can read part 2, SOS: Starting Out Speaking For Beginner Speakers , here.

You’re on stage, smiling and energized. You’re prayed up. You know your story and have gone over your notes many times, so you feel ready. Your bottle of cold water and visual aids are on the little table by the podium within easy reach. Sound has been checked. The audience is attentive, leaning in, eager to hear what you’ll have to say because they’ve heard about this event.

You open your mouth and out it comes, “Wow, it’s so much hotter here than it is in Kansas City! Well hi ya’ll, I’m Beth Jones and I’m so excited to be here today! I want to thank Sherry for inviting me here.”

NO, NO, NO!

Your opening and ending lines are critical to a successful speaking presentation! Don’t start talking about the weather, the building, or introducing yourself with your name and trivia about your family! (Ask me how I know these things?! I’m learning from my mistakes.)

You want to immediately grab them, not lose the energy in the room. That first impression and the first few seconds are vital for the rest of your speaking presentation.

Here’s a few tips for a great intro to quickly engage your audience:

  • Share a great story. This can be funny or not, but make it relevant to your audience and to your topic. Sounds obvious, but if you want to be a speaker, make sure you have something interesting to say! Stories interest people. Jesus told parables to teach. When I attended CLASServices professional speakers’ and writers’ training, speaking legend Florence Littauer talked about the power of story and demonstrated it well with her hilarious but poignant stories, such as how different hers and her husband Fred’s personalities were. She’s a flamboyant Sanguine who loves to talk and to have fun. Fred was a moody melancholy who only became excited when half a school wing burned down. Nothing short of tragedy moved him and he liked to focus on the negatives. ( Personality Plus, Florence Littauer, p. 108) Draw in your audience with a good story in your intro.
  • Ask a question. Frame it in a way that people know exactly what you want. If you are talking about fear of public speaking and ask them to raise their hand if they’ve ever experienced this fear and what bodily symptoms they get that shows they’re nervous, they’ll know what you mean and will be able to answer quickly, “Sweating, rapid heartbeat, feeling faint or nausea, dry mouth, etc.” etc. Make sure your question isn’t vague. Use their answers so they’ll want to continue contributing and never humiliate them with the answer they gave. Asking a question stimulates the audience and connects you with them. Don’t make the question too obvious, too complicated, or too deep theologically/philosophically or you’ll get the blank stares and an awkward silence. You want them to be able to answer so you connect.
  • Use an inspirational quote. A great quote can jumpstart you into your topic immediately. Quotes from Christian leaders such as Zig Ziglar or John Maxwell or author Maya Angelou are good examples. “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou. Sharing that quote might be the perfect intro for you to share your story of childhood sexual abuse and how you overcame that tragedy to become healed and empowered through your faith in Christ, and the way God is using you today to minister to women who have gone through that same pain.
  • Start with a current event (or popular person) or something another speaker said. When I spoke at Doreen Penner’s women’s retreat in Canada, Doreen, Karen Wells, and I referred to each other during our presentation times. It united us and connected the audience with us. Popular news items will hook your audience right away.  If you speak about gun control or how the cardinals are electing a new pope, or about Beyoncé lip syncing at the Inauguration, most people will have at least a little idea of what you’re talking about and will be engaged immediately.

These are just a few tips for your speaking presentation intro. I hope you’re enjoying these SOS Speaking Tips for Beginner Speakers. I’d love to hear your comments about what you think of this topic below. What’s the best or worst intro at a speaking engagement you’ve ever heard – or have done yourself?!

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