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‹ View all articles 1st March 2013

How to start a speech with power and confidence

Delivering a Talk

It's that horrible moment. You've just been called to stage, your audience are silent, waiting for you to open your mouth and now it's your turn. But what do you say? How do you start a speech with power and confidence, rather than the usual "Erm... thanks very much for inviting me here"...

The simple truth is… your audience will judge you from the moment you start your speech. Harsh I know but very true. So it's a good idea to start your speech with certainty and confidence. Here are some top tips for how to prepare yourself to start your speech with power and confidence.

Starting a speech isn't only about your words

As the wise Maya Angelou said:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

So starting a speech is not as much about what you say as you might think. In fact the key thing I want to emphasise about starting a speech is to get yourself in the right state. If you show your confidence, your audience will have confidence in you too.But you don't have to start 'all-guns-blazing'.

The biggest cause of nerves in public speaking is that most of us try to be someone we're not; so to get started with confidence, start with being yourself. If the all-guns-blazing kapow, kapow approach just isn't your style, don't start your speech like that. Find a different way to start that's powerful for you.

Permission to be authentic.

Starting a speech: Prepare to be yourself! 

We can spend all the time in the world worrying about speaking; Am I wearing the right clothing? Do I have all my stuff here? What will the audience think of me? Endless questions might worry you about your presentation but what you really need to be focused on is just spending a few moments getting back to yourself.

Connect to yourself by finding a method to break the distance between yourself and your speaking and the nerves that you feel. You might like to head outside for a few moments or even go to the loo; find a place that is a little bit quiet and do a short breathing exercise. Focus in on your breath as well as your intentions for your speaking.

  • What qualities would you like to display as a speaker?
  • What benefit would you like to give to your audience? 

Doing this allows you to be grounded and to start your speech as yourself, rather than starting from a place of panic or self doubt.

Starting a speech: First words count

And now onto what you're going to say. First off, avoid starting a speech with lines like:

  • Thank you so much, it's a pleasure to be here
  • I'm sorry, this isn't going to take very long
  • I was only asked last week / yesterday / 10 minutes ago to do this speech
  • A funny thing happened to me whilst trying to find the venue...


This is your moment to shine, so shine from the get-go. To start your speech with power, find something unique, engaging and memorable to say. And make sure it's a line that you're 100% comfortable with, so your talk flies rather than sags from the beginning.

Here are some ideas from some of my favourite speech beginnings:

You might start your speech with a provocative question -

  • "How do you explain why some people are able to achieve things that seem impossible?" - Simon Sinek, TEDx Talk
  • "What do I know that would cause me, a reticent, Midwestern scientist, to get myself arrested in front of the White House protesting? And what would you do if you knew what I know?" - James Hansen, TED Talk

An amazing or shocking fact -

  • "Sadly, in the next 18 minutes when I do our chat, four Americans that are alive will be dead from the food that they eat.” - Jamie Oliver, TED Talk
  • "I’m talking to you about the worst form of human rights violation, the third-largest organized crime, a $10 billion industry. I’m talking to you about modern-day slavery."  - Sunitha Krishnan, TED Talk

A joke -

  • "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." - Ken Robinson, TED Talk
  • "Okay, now I don’t want to alarm anybody in this room, but it’s just come to my attention that the person to your right is a liar." - Pamela Mayer, TED Talk

By evoking an image -

  • "Imagine, if you will -- a gift. I'd like for you to picture it in your mind. It's not too big -- about the size of a golf ball." -Stacey Kramer TED Talk
  • "Imagine a big explosion as you climb through 3,000 ft. Imagine a plane full of smoke. Imagine an engine going clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. It sounds scary. Well I had a unique seat that day. I was sitting in 1D." - Ric Elias, TED Talk

All of these speech beginnings get the audience connected and ready to listen. And a great opening line allows you to settle into your speech so that you can shine.

So remember, start your speech with confidence and power by first being yourself and then having a great opening line. Good luck!


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