Real Leaders

Stage Fright? Here’s the First Thing to Say When Making a Speech

Male and female coworkers listening to businesswoman talking on microphone in meeting at office

Each week, speech coach and leadership mentor James Rosebush will answer a question on how to improve your public speaking

Lisa Vioni, CEO of Hedge Connection asks: “When I step on stage to make a speech, I’m never sure of the best way to start! What should I do first?”

Dear Lisa,

I understand this scenario perfectly. It’s a question almost every speaker encounters. The way to begin, if you have not yet been introduced to your audience, is to state your name distinctly and clearly, your professional or personal association, where you are from and where you’re based. The audience wants to identify. They will quickly think “Oh I lived near there once, or have relatives there, or I own a company near there.” It’s an excellent and easy way to make a connection.

Next, you’ll want to thank your host by name. After that, you’ll want to say how happy you are to be there! Then make a comment about how nice the hall is or how impressive the local community is. Make a statement about people and place.

Now you’re probably thinking: “These things are all intuitive and any speaker will know how to do these things.” Not so! Most speakers don’t know how to do these things. These few introductory things are essential bridge builders. Once you’ve done these basic and critically important things, launch right into repeating the topic of your speech and then plunge quickly into your opening story.

Grab the audience quickly, before they drift away and start thinking about what they need to do the following day. Then you are on your way — telling your whole story and at the end, key points to remember.

That is the best way to begin — It’s a perfect formula.

Let’s hear from our readers on this topic. Tell me what has worked for you in the comments below.

Have a question you’ve always wanted to ask about public speaking? Email James at and your answer may feature here.