The first minutes of your speech are crucial. During this time, the audience is testing you and your content. Is this worth listening to? Am I going to get anything out of it? Or is this e-mail and surf-the-Web time?
Here's a way to grab your audience by the lapels at the very beginning. Link a big idea in your speech to a fresh headline from this morning's newspaper or website.
Bringing your speech right up to the minute does wonders for audience attention and engagement.
One of my favorite speakers used an offbeat newspaper story to make an important point about his company's financial stability. This was a few years back -- in the days of the Enron implosion, $6,000 shower curtains, and CEO perp walks.
Our speaker summarized a newspaper article from that morning's New York Times about a disgraced executive who used company money to finance cosmetic surgery for the exec’s dog.
He described his own company's conservative financial philosophy. No debt. No "contracts" with the auditors. No tolerance for creative accounting.
Then he announced, "There will be no facelifts for poodles at our company."
Your fresh new story can be precooked to a degree. You already know the big ideas in your speech. Lots of news stories are continuing and episodic. Find someone on your team who’s a current events junkie and can creatively link unlikely topics in an entertaining way. When a target of opportunity pops up, drop it into the opening of your speech.
These days, audiences are pretty jaded. They've heard it all. Give them a surprise and a treat -- a fresh-from-the-oven headline that wraps around your big idea.