Blog: 5 Cool Ideas for the First 5 Minutes of Any Speech


Effective speakers accomplish certain things at the beginning of every speech. In fact, the first five minutes sets the tone for your message. I’ve always thought it ironic that most speakers are distracted with nervousness and anxiety during the first critical moments of their presentation. OK, settle down. You have a lot to do in the opening moments, however, your task can be achieved with these helpful tips.

1. Offer your credentials in the first five minutes.

Tell people in simple, human terms why they should care about you. Don’t merely repeat the person who introduced you. Don’t recite from your written biography. Quickly tell the audience why they should listen to you and act on your message. Do it in a way that doesn’t sound pompous by using an “incidental credential.” You might say something like “I learned something when I was speaking in Europe last month.” The main point is that you learned something and the audience has also learned that you are an international speaker.

2. Establish positive expectation in the first five minutes.

Good speakers work at creating positive expectations. This is important because too many average speakers have taught us to expect boring, regurgitated rhetoric. For years, I opened my speeches by clapping my hands, smiling broadly, and announcing, “Get ready for the best speech you’ve ever heard!” Do this correctly and people will smile. Great speakers constantly talk about what will benefit the listeners.

3. Make the audience smile in the first five minutes.

Never announce that you’re going to tell a joke unless your style is to create pressure. If you announce a joke, it had better be extremely funny. If it’s not funny, the audience will fake laugh, which sets the tone for an artificial rapport. I tell “stories” that happen to be funny.

4. Get the audience to do something in the first five minutes.

Audience participation sets a precedent that will serve you well when you end your speech and deliver your urge to action. So, get the audience to raise their hands, write something down, or answer a question during the first five minutes of your speech. You can encourage participation and be funny by raising your hand and asking, “How many of you are here today?”

5. Teach them something in the first five minutes.

In order to teach someone something, you must inform the person about something they don’t otherwise know. Reminding is not teaching. I’m referring to original, head-turning, jaw-dropping information. You’ll get extra points if the information is immediately applicable.

Michael Angelo Caruso is president of Edison House, a Michigan-based consulting company. His blog appears regularly on