How should you start a speech?

I have just had three wonderful weeks in India. I made some speeches. I listened to a lot of speeches.

I was asked: “What is the best way to start a speech?”

We all know the bad ways. For example, someone just reads from their powerpoint. Or someone is checking the microphone.

But from Conor Neill from Ireland I have long applied these three ways to start a speech:


My recent topic has been How to Communicate and Survive during Industrial Revolution 4.0. So some times I start with “How will you keep your job when robots take over?” The question should be about a problem your audience faces.

State a FACT

Find some amazing fact that leads to your topic. One of Conor’s favourites is “There are more people alive today than have ever died”. If the fact shocks, even better. With my topic I use “over 65% of the kids in school right now will find jobs that have not even yet been invented.”

Begin a STORY

“I was in India recently and I met a person who said something which changed how I think about communication and leadership”. The audience is keen to hear what that “something” was. It should connect to your topic.

So, that’s the beginning.

Then, I suggest you have a long pause every 5 minutes or so (shorter if you like) and use another beginning and bring the audience along again using one of these three starters.

Good luck! (equals good preparation).

Author: Stephen Manallack

Former President, Australia India Business Council, Victoria and Author, You Can Communicate; Riding the Elephant; Soft Skills for a Flat World (published by Tata McGraw-Hill INDIA); Communicating Your Personal Brand. Director, EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and Trainer/Speaker/Mentor in Leadership, Communication and Cross Cultural Communication. Passionate campaigner for closer western relations with India. Stephen Manallack is a specialist on “Doing Business with India” and advisor/trainer on “Cross-Cultural Understanding”. He is a Director of EastWest Academy Pty Ltd which provides strategic advice and counsel regarding business relations with India. A regular speaker in India on leadership and global communication, his most recent speaking tour included a speech to students of the elite Indian university, Amity University, in Noida. He also spoke at a major Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) global summit, the PR Consultants Association of India in Delhi, the Symbiosis University in Pune and Cross-Cultural Training for Sundaram Business Services in Chennai. He has visited India on business missions on 10 occasions and led three major trade missions there. He provides cross-cultural training – Asia and the west.

One thought on “How should you start a speech?”

  1. Prime Minister Nehru’s historic speech ” Tryst With Destiny” delivered on the eve of India’s independence from British rule on the late hours of August 14, 1947 had a powerful beginning “At the stroke of the midnight hour,when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom .A moment comes,which comes, but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new,when an age ends,and when the soul of a nation long suppressed,finds utterance”.
    His grandson, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Australia in 1986 and Prime Minister Bob Hawke introduced him to the Australian parliament with these loving words” Let me introduce Rajiv Gandhi ,the handsomest Prime Minister in the world today”
    Sometime a contrarian view can be a great beginning for a speech. Recently when the world was celebrating the 50th anniversary of Man’s landing on the moon in 1959, Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen in a memorable speech observed “”Let me say this with total conviction. The Mid Day Meal Scheme which is feeding millions of poor children in schools across the world is far more important to humanity than a man landing on the moon” The speech had a powerful resonance even from those who marvel at the success of technology.
    Prime Minister Malcolm Turn bull on his first official visit to India in 2017 observed” Everything in India changes ever so often.Even the language in India changes magnificently .What was once described as ” population problem” is now called ” demographic dividend”.

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