How to Start a Speech

Video Transcript

One of the first words you should say in a speech and what are the last words you should say in a speech ?

Now tomorrow, I don’t know how many of you are speaking but I guarantee if you go to conferences 19 out of 20 speakers will start in one of these ways:

Number one my name is Connor Neal I’m from tango and this talk is about the latest trend in monitoring strategies. Now all of you are sitting with a piece of paper in front of you that says I’m Connor Neal.  I’ve come from Ireland and I’m going to talk about tango 0-4 and this so by repeating what you already know I’m giving a signal that it’s a time to get your BlackBerry out I’ve just signals that this talk is opportunity to reconnect with blackberry.  Or perhaps make sure the office is ok maybe get some plans together for the weekend.  Another way to start the lights and some of the mics working and how much time have I got. Ok right Ok is it is it plugged in and you laugh,  but I guarantee tomorrow there’s going to be some moments they get a little bit upset and why because this is for some of you the first time you see this individual.

They’re here as a leader in their industry and your kid at school presenting on giraffes does a better job.  That’s sad I think there’s only three ways of starting a speech and it’s the same if you went into a bar and there’s a group of people. Just like a networking event much like you were at before you walked into this room and maybe I came up to a group there’s group of three people who are having a little conversation.  I walk in and I say hi I’m Connor I’m Irish 38 years old I have an interest in sailing I like running and they’ve walked away.

How do you get people to engage with you when you’re networking?

I say in networking the best thing you can do is walk up.  I think we know someone in common try and walk away when someone comes up and says that to you hopefully you’ve done your research.  So you do know that you’ve know someone in common but with LinkedIn you can find out who knows who on anyone you want so how to start a speech first way with a question that matters to the audience.

How do you phrase a problem that the audience faces in a question so that’d be the third best way of starting a speech. The second best way of starting a speech with a factoid that shocks. There’s more people alive today than have ever died more.  There’s a lot of speeches that can follow on from there every two minutes the energy reaching the earth from the Sun is equivalent to the whole annual usage of humanity. That’s all the energy all the cars everything moving all the lighting all the air conditioning of the world in one year is equivalent to two minutes of Sun.

Does that change how you think about energy so what’s a fact that shocks the audience into rethinking and Google has transformed your ability to get at these facts given two or three minutes you can find out one whether anything I’ve said is true.  But you trust me because I look the part and I’m from ESA.  Those are in fact two true facts I usually get someone come up to me and are you sure but how do they measure dead and alive.

But it’s true and it’s not even close but the best way to start a speech and the way that I hope all of you use from now forward is the same way we start a story to a child.  Now how do we start a story to a child and I say “once once upon a time” and what happens when you say once upon a time I can tell you what happens.

When I say once upon a time my daughter leans forward gets ready to hear engages and we were all trained as kids to know when a story’s coming we also know when a teacher is about to deliver a 40 minute during lecture that has no impact on our lives. However in business you don’t hear him Jack Welsh saying once upon a time Steve Jobs doesn’t start his speeches once upon a time so there’s a grown-up way of saying once upon a time. If you listen to the conversations that are interesting around you at a dinner table in a networking event.  If you listen to the people that are gathering the group of eight that are listening to them the way they’re talking is different the way they start is different the way you tell stories as an adult.

It was in October was the last time I was in this room there were a hundred and twenty people in the room and I was having a little conversation with one of the world experts on public speaking and he said something to me.  He said something to me this had me thinking ever since he said something to me that changed what I think about what’s important in speaking.

Now I can pause for about 30 seconds two or three minutes and you want to know what he said so in speaking in sales. We assume self-interest so if you can tell a story from your own life that connects you to why this topic is important to you.  Why you first joined the company when you first saw someone benefit and you saw how their life was changed and I think here exploring what quality of life means for you in your business.

How do you affect quality of life for a customer because that’s where the stories that will start to connect you to the audience will come from because stories are about people they’re not about objects are not about things it’s about the people behind the things.  If you want to tell a good story about tango don’t talk about the software talk about the people who built the software.  What they do now and they are what’s important to them what they sacrifice and in your own life. What does quality of life mean what sacrifices have you made to achieve something that was more important.  If you can tell stories and the audience connect with those stories then they want to hear what you have to say and all the reasons and all the benefits they’re all written in the document and in the PowerPoint but they need to trust you and they need to care about you as a person to engage with you and then decide that they will act.

Additional:

Listen to some of the great speech writers on the BBC Archives from anywhere – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4pSo3uw7MA

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