Start strong – 3 gripping ways to open your talk (Includes example opening lines)

RunnerOf the countless presentations you’ve likely heard, how many have really made you listen? Often, they can sound and look a lot like all the rest. That’s why, if you’re like me, they tend to leave you cold.

So when you present, you risk seeming just like all the other presenters. In which case, people can start to tune out – fast! That is, unless you start strong.

What’s the best way to start strong? Involve people emotionally! To do that, mention their hopes or fears surrounding your topic – while still being professional of course. That engages your audience because they’re drawn in at a gut level. And, it’s so different from the norm!

“We need audiences to feel first, and then to think.”
Helio Fred Garcia in Fast Company

Mention their hopes or fears…

I recommend 3 neat ways you can start strong when you present. Choose any 1 of them to open your talk:

  • Scenario: Ask people to picture a risk or reward they face.
  • Statistic: Cite a startling number. (Yes, that will draw people in emotionally, provided you use a truly startling statistic.)
  • Story: Share a story or anecdote about success or failure (like in this example of being terrified before speaking).


Example opening lines

No matter which of those 3 ways you use, make sure what you say relates closely to your topic.

For instance, suppose you’re presenting to managers at your company about onboarding their new hires. To start strong, you could use any of these as your very 1st words:

  • Scenario

    “Picture this: You become renowned as the leader with the best onboarding program in the company.
    [Pause for several seconds to let people picture that.]

    Today, you’ll learn all you need to make that happen.”

  • Statistic

    “Did you know: If a new hire leaves within the first 6 months, the company’s wasted [X] thousand dollars.
    [Pause for several seconds to let that sink in.]

    In this talk, you’ll see how you can avoid that in your cost centre.”

  • Story

    “Have you heard what happened to Mary Jones after attending this session in June? Just 3 weeks later, she was on the way to an important client meeting, when she got a frantic call from…”


Your turn

What great examples of starting strong have you seen – or used yourself? Please share in a comment below.

See also


7 thoughts on “Start strong – 3 gripping ways to open your talk (Includes example opening lines)

  1. It’s a great point to start with emotion. In business, people often strip their speech from emotion as if it isn’t professional, but everyone in the audience has emotions and if you ignore that, you may not reach them. Using emotion can result in a much greater impact.


  2. Totally agree that the emotional engagement is necessary when starting a talk, especially because most people are used to and/or expect that a presentation will be the same as any other one they’ve sat through. Great examples, too!


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