How to Start a Speech: The Best (and Worst) Speech Openers (2023)

One of the hardest things about public speaking is knowing how to start a speech. Your opening line is your first impression. It’s how you capture attention. It’s how you captivate the audience. So how do you make sure you nail it every time?

The best way to know how to open a speech is to look at what has worked in the past. When we examined the top speeches of all time and the most popular TED talks of all time, we found some interesting speaking patterns.

Time has identified the top 10 greatest speeches of all time. They are:

Opening Lines of the Top 10 Greatest Speeches of All Time

#1: Socrates – “Apology”

How to Start a Speech: The Best (and Worst) Speech Openers (1)

#2: Patrick Henry – “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”

How to Start a Speech: The Best (and Worst) Speech Openers (2)

#3: Frederick Douglass – “The Hypocrisy of American Slavery”

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#4: Abraham Lincoln – “Gettysburg Address”

Opening Line: “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

How to Start a Speech: The Best (and Worst) Speech Openers (4)

#5: Susan B. Anthony – “Women’s Rights to the Suffrage”

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#6: Winston Churchill – “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat”

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#7: John F. Kennedy – “Inaugural Address”

Opening Line: “We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom — symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning — signifying renewal, as well as change.”

(Video) How to Start a Speech: The Best (and Worst) Speech Openers

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#8: Martin Luther King, Jr. – “I Have a Dream”

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#9: Lyndon B. Johnson – “The American Promise”

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#10: Ronald Reagan – “Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate”

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How do all of these historical greats start their speeches? Is there a difference between these and some of the more modern top TED talks?

Before we dive in, let’s recap with some critical do’s and don’ts when opening a speech:

How to Start a Speech: The Best (and Worst) Speech Openers (11)

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Opening Lines of the Top 10 TED Talks of All Time

Here are the opening lines to the top 10 Ted Talks of all time according to view count:

#1: Sir Ken Robinson – “Do schools kill creativity?”

Opening Line: “Good morning. How are you? It’s been great, hasn’t it? I’ve been blown away by the whole thing. In fact, I’m leaving.”

#2: Amy Cuddy – “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are”

(Video) How to Start a Speech

Opening Line: “So I want to start by offering you a free, no-tech life hack, and all it requires of you is this: that you change your posture for two minutes.”

#3: Simon Sinek – “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”

#4: Brene Brown – “The Power of Vulnerability”

Opening Line: “So, I’ll start with this: a couple years ago, an event planner called me because I was going to do a speaking event.”

#5: Mary Roach – “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Orgasm”

Opening Line: “All right. I’m going to show you a couple of images from a very diverting paper in The Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine.”

#6: Julian Treasure – “How to Speak so that People Want to Listen”

Opening Line: “The human voice: It’s the instrument we all play.”

#7: Jill Bolte Taylor – “My Stroke of Insight”

Opening Line: “I grew up to study the brain because I have a brother who has been diagnosed with a brain disorder: schizophrenia.”

#8: James Veitch – “This is What Happens When You Reply to Spam Email”

Opening Line: “A few years ago, I got one of those spam emails.”

#9: Cameron Russell – “Looks Aren’t Everything; Believe Me, I’m a Model”

Opening Line: “Hi. My name is Cameron Russell, and for the last little while, I’ve been a model.”

(Video) Stop Beginning Your Speeches with Good Morning and Thank You and Start with This Instead

#10: Dan Pink – “The Puzzle of Motivation”

Opening Line: “I need to make a confession at the outset here.”

What can we learn from these opening lines? There are some patterns that can help us. First, let’s start with what you shouldn’t do. Have you ever made one of these cardinal speaking sins?

↑ Table of Contents ↑

Never Start a Presentation with…

Anything technical! This is a big mistake people make when they have not done a tech check ahead of time or are feeling nervous. Never start with these openers:

  • Is this microphone working?
  • Can you hear me?
  • Wow, these lights are bright!

Your nervousness. Many people think it is vulnerable to start with how nervous they are about speaking — you can mention this later, but it should not be the first thing. Why? People will then only be looking for signs of your nervousness. Don’t start with:

  • I’m so nervous right now!
  • Wow there are so many people here.
  • I’m not a great public speaker.

A lackluster or non-believable nicety. It’s great to be grateful to the person who introduced you, but it’s not a great way to include the audience. It’s ok to thank the audience for being there—but do it at the end (not as your opening line). These are all too boring:

  • Thanks for having me.
  • Thanks for that intro.
  • Nice to be here.

Boring, shmoring! I have an exception here if you can make it funny. Ken Robinson started with a nicety and then turned it into a joke. He said, “ “Good morning. How are you? It’s been great, hasn’t it? I’ve been blown away by the whole thing. In fact, I’m leaving.”

More Public Speaking Resources

Get even more public speaking tips with our related resources:

  • 10 Presentation Ideas that will Radically Improve Your Presentation Skills
  • 6 Public Speaking Apps to try Before Your Next Presentation
  • My Top 5 Favorite Public Speakers
  • 15 Science-Based Public Speaking Tips To Become a Master Speaker
  • How to Give Captivating Presentations
  • How to Give an Awesome Toast

↑ Table of Contents ↑

How to Start a Presentation

A story. The absolute best way to start a presentation is with a story. There is nothing better to capture the imagination and attention of an audience. Try to use these speaking openers as fill-in-the-blanks for your speech.

  • I’m here for a reason. And it’s an interesting story…
  • The best thing that ever happened to me was…
  • Once upon a time…

In his talk, “The lies our culture tells us about what matters,” David Brooks started off with a great opening line AND a story. He said, “So, we all have bad seasons in life. And I had one in 2013. My marriage had just ended, and I was humiliated by that failed commitment.” Makes you want to watch right…

And if you need help on storytelling basics, be sure to check out some of my top 5 favorite speakers.

A BIG idea. Sometimes you want to share your big idea right up front. This can be helpful because it is intriguing and gets people clued in right away. All TED speakers try to integrate their big idea early.

  • You’re here for a reason. It’s…
  • The single most important thing I want to share with you today is…
  • Today, I want to share a big idea…

I love how Stacy Smith starts off her talk with her big idea framed in an interesting way. She said, “Today, I want to tell you about a pressing social issue. Now, it’s not nuclear arms, it’s not immigration, and it’s not malaria. I’m here to talk about movies.”

(Video) How to Start your Presentation: 4 Step Formula for a Killer Intro

Special Note: Be very careful to NOT deliver your one-liner by re-reading your title slide. You also want to position it as exciting and intriguing. For example, don’t say, “Today I am going to talk about body language.” Instead say, “Today I am going to teach you the single most important thing you can do to improve your charisma… and it starts with your body.”

A quirky one-liner. If you can use humor — do it! Humor or curiosity is a great way to start a speech on a high. You can get creative with these! Think of an interesting fact about you, your audience or your topic that can lead you into your content.

  • One thing most people don’t know about me is…
  • A teacher, a mother and a duck walk into a bar…
  • I want to tell you something surprising.

When I gave my TEDx London Talk I started off with a quirky one-liner that immediately got a few laughs. It was “Hi, I’m Vanessa and I am a recovering awkward person.” It worked so well it is also the first line of my book, Captivate.

How to Start a Speech: The Best (and Worst) Speech Openers (12)

II love the way Eve Ensler opens her speech with an interesting one-liner: “For a long time, there was me, and my body.”

This is a great tip from Conor Neill. He says that it is great to start with a question that the audience is asking themselves or would be very curious to know the answer to. This might be phrasing a pain point or worry for your audience.

  • Do you ever worry about…?
  • Have you ever wondered…?
  • You might have always thought…

See Cono Neill’s examples here:

How to Start a Speech: The Best (and Worst) Speech Openers (13)

Did you know…? Any interesting factoid or curiosity is bound to intrigue your audience. This is great if it leads into your content or a story. I like to start with did you know… Here are some that I use. You will have to fill in the blank for your audience:

  • Did you know that it takes less than a second to make a first impression?
  • Did you know that your nonverbal communication is 12.5 times more powerful than your words?
  • Did you know that we are lied to 200 times a day?

Jamie Oliver does this amazingly in his TED Talk. He starts with this mind-blowing fact, “Sadly, in the next 18 minutes when I do our chat, four Americans that are alive will be dead through the food that they eat.”

Hopefully these opening lines will give you some ideas to use to open your speech.

How to Start a Speech: The Best (and Worst) Speech Openers (14)

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How to End a Speech: My Favorite Closers

Do you know how to end on a high? Leave a lasting impression in your presentation? Science tells us that the first and last part of your presentations are the most important. Get our FREE download to get our closer guide.

(Video) Examples of Attention Getters


What is a powerful opening for a speech? ›

Telling a story is a popular way to open a speech because it can quickly build that all-important human connection with your audience. If you have a message that's personal, or if you're trying to influence your audience to make a change, a story is a great place to start.

How do you start a killer speech? ›

Starting Your Speech With a Killer Opening
  1. Putting the Speaker and the Audience at Ease. ...
  2. Capturing the Attention of Your Audience. ...
  3. Be Prepared. ...
  4. First Words Count. ...
  5. Start With a Story. ...
  6. Reconnect With Yourself. ...
  7. Learn More About Starting Your Speech With a Killer Opening.
Dec 1, 2020

How do you start a 2 minute speech? ›

A few ways in which you can begin your 2-minute speeches are given below: If you are to introduce yourself, you can begin simply by saying your name. “Good afternoon everyone, I am Xyz…” You can also use ethos, pathos, and logos to begin your 2-minute speeches.

How do you start a 5 minute speech? ›

Opening: Spend the first minute of your speech introducing yourself, if needed, and introducing your topic in a way that gets the audience's attention. Consider a question, personal story or quote.

How can I speak well in speech? ›

Five Tips to Give a Great Speech
  1. Practice Beforehand. Practice replacing filler words like "um," "so," and "like" with silence. ...
  2. Work the Room. ...
  3. Prepare with Relaxation Techniques. ...
  4. Don't Read Your Speech. ...
  5. Stand Up Straight.
Aug 13, 2018

What are 5 things that make a good speech? ›

If you don't want to inflict the same sort of experience on others, here are our top tips for giving a great speech.
  • Practise your microphone technique. ...
  • Keep it short. ...
  • Consider what your audience wants to hear. ...
  • Pick a theme and stick to it. ...
  • Speak slowly. ...
  • Tell a couple of jokes.

What is a strong opening sentence? ›

Start with the chase. A good hook might also be a question or a claim—anything that will elicit an emotional response from a reader. Think about it this way: a good opening sentence is the thing you don't think you can say, but you still want to say. Like, “This book will change your life.”

How do you write a strong opening? ›

6 Tips for Writing a Memorable Opening Line
  1. Start in the middle of a story. The first lines don't have to begin with long descriptions of a room's appearance or a character's personality. ...
  2. Open with a mystery. ...
  3. Flash back to the past. ...
  4. Describe the current state of affairs. ...
  5. Set the tone. ...
  6. Start with a voice.
Nov 8, 2021

What makes a powerful opening? ›

A strong novel opening usually does one of three things: Introduces us to the protagonist. Tells us when and where the story is happening. Sets the tone of the novel and shows us what genre we're in.

How do you start a speech without running out of breath? ›

The Voice Foundation
  1. Breathe in through your mouth when preparing to speak.
  2. Relax the back of your tongue on inhalation to avoid a gaspy, noisy air intake.
  3. Trace the breath low in your body sensing your belly rise as the air floats in and your belly fall as the air flows out.
  4. Monitor your breathing.

How do you hook a speech? ›

12 Killer Hooks to Grab Your Audience's Attention
  1. Use a contrarian approach. ...
  2. Ask a series of rhetorical questions. ...
  3. Deliver a compelling sound bite. ...
  4. Make a startling assertion. ...
  5. Provide a reference to a historical event. ...
  6. Use the word imagine.
Oct 26, 2021

How do you write a speech without freaking out? ›

In fact, people often fear public speaking. But the more you're immersed in these types of situations, the more comfortable you'll become.
5 techniques to control your nerves
  1. Practice impression management. ...
  2. Talk to someone. ...
  3. Do breathing exercises. ...
  4. Practice reframing.
Feb 16, 2023

How do you start a speech sample? ›

2. Starting a speech: First words count
  1. Thank you so much, it's a pleasure to be here.
  2. I'm sorry, this isn't going to take very long.
  3. I was only asked last week/yesterday/10 minutes ago to do this speech.
  4. A funny thing happened to me whilst trying to find the venue…
  5. Thanks for coming.
Dec 13, 2019

What can I say instead of hello in a speech? ›

synonyms for hello
  • greetings.
  • hi.
  • howdy.
  • welcome.
  • bonjour.
  • buenas noches.
  • buenos dias.
  • good day.

How do you start a speech without saying good morning? ›

In a recent blog post, we came up with six ways to start a speech that will make you stand out:
  1. Tell a personal story.
  2. Share a shocking statistic.
  3. Ask a question.
  4. Quote a powerful person.
  5. Tell the audience to imagine.
  6. Refer to a historical event.
Feb 6, 2018

How do you write a quick speech? ›

How to Write a Speech in 30 Minutes
  1. Find a quiet room, close the door, and turn off your digital devices. ...
  2. Ask yourself the 3 Questions: Who is your audience? ...
  3. Think of one main message. ...
  4. Draft your speech in bullet points, not word-for-word. ...
  5. Write out your first and last sentences. ...
  6. Keep it simple.
May 23, 2016

How do you speak on a random topic? ›

Begin a short speech with a headline statement.

If you're just speaking for 5 minutes or less, introduce your topic with a concise, attention-grabbing summary statement. If you'd like, you can make a joke to break the ice first, but make it quick and ensure it is relevant to the topic.

How do you start a 3 minute speech? ›

Write an opening statement that is sure to grab the attention of your audience. Depending on the topic and the crowd, you may want to consider starting with an amusing anecdote, a startling statistic or an interesting quote from a relevant source.

How do you present powerfully? ›

Here are some of her favorite tips to create powerful presentations:
  1. Tip #1: Craft a good story to engage your audience. ...
  2. Tip #2: Use simple language that is easy for people to follow. ...
  3. Tip #3: Use cues to guide your readers through your speech. ...
  4. Tip #4: Use non-verbal clues strategically.
Jan 31, 2022

What are some good short speeches? ›

5 Short But Sweet Speeches We Love
  • Abraham Lincoln's “The Gettysburg Address”
  • 2. “ We Will Not Go Quietly Into the Night” Speech From “Independence Day”
  • Neil Armstrong's Speech On the Moon.
  • Baz Luhrmann and Mary Schmich: “Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”
  • Winston Churchill's “Never Give In”
Aug 11, 2014

What is a 3 minute speech? ›

Answer: At the normal speaking rate of 130 words per minute (wpm), a 3 minutes long speech will have about 390 words .

How can I make my speech powerful? ›

Spice it Up
  1. Give it rhythm. ...
  2. Vary the sentence structure. ...
  3. Use the active voice and avoid passive sentences. ...
  4. Repeat key words and points. ...
  5. Ask rhetorical questions in a way that attracts your listeners' attention.
  6. Personal experiences and anecdotes help bolster your points and help you connect with the audience.
Jan 11, 2013

How to speak smartly? ›

Here are the seven keys to speaking up smartly:
  1. Address the Problem Quickly.
  2. Go to the Right Person.
  3. Put Your Attitude On.
  4. Start with Questions.
  5. Focus on the Benefits to the Company.
  6. Avoid Badmouthing.
  7. Don't Mope.
Aug 20, 2013

How do you speak powerfully? ›

8 Powerful Tips for Speaking With Confidence and Authority
  1. Take ownership of the room. ...
  2. Stand like a champion. ...
  3. Tailor your message to the audience. ...
  4. Get to the point. ...
  5. Replace “um” with stronger filler words. ...
  6. Don't overcomplicate it. ...
  7. Don't swear. ...
  8. Tell a story.
Sep 29, 2016

How do you say best speech? ›

11 Tips for Giving a Great Speech
  1. Practise your microphone technique. ...
  2. Keep it short. ...
  3. Consider what your audience wants to hear. ...
  4. Pick a theme and stick to it. ...
  5. Speak slowly. ...
  6. Tell a couple of jokes. ...
  7. Don't be afraid to repeat yourself if you need to. ...
  8. Only use the visual aids you need.

How do you start an opening speech for an event? ›

Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening, Thank you to each and every one of you for being here with us today. We are very pleased to be able to welcome those of you that have been with us for a long time now as well as those who are new to the (group/community/association etc.)

How do you say a speech without messing up? ›

Use good lighting and a decent microphone. Speak slowly, enunciate, and use short words, sentences and paragraphs. Lastly, get rid of filler words like “um,” “ah,” “like” and other expressions that can distract from or bloat your message when used in excess.

Why do I mess up my speech? ›

Feeling Tired or Stressed

And when you're worried about being judged by others or feel embarrassed, you may freeze up or struggle to talk. Anxiety, especially if it crops up when you're in front of a lot of people, can lead to dry mouth, stumbling over your words, and more troubles that can get in the way of speaking.

How can I talk without boring? ›

7 Ways to Make Small Talk Way More Interesting
  1. Be more interested. ...
  2. Ask open-ended questions. ...
  3. Leverage your environment (or your wardrobe). ...
  4. Play the student. ...
  5. Gamify for your own amusement. ...
  6. Be more interesting. ...
  7. Give up on lost causes.

What is an example of speech opening? ›

Hello, everyone. I'd like, first of all, to thank the organizers of this meeting for inviting me here today. Another example of opening Greeting speech.

How can I make a powerful speech? ›

Five Tips to Give a Great Speech
  1. Practice Beforehand. Practice replacing filler words like "um," "so," and "like" with silence. ...
  2. Work the Room. ...
  3. Prepare with Relaxation Techniques. ...
  4. Don't Read Your Speech. ...
  5. Stand Up Straight.
Aug 13, 2018

How do you start a speech starter sentence? ›

Clear introduction

Today I'm going to talk about… The focus of my talk today is on… Why this topic is important: X is really important because…


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