Friday, 22 June 2012

Classic Speech Openings and Closings from Aung Sang Suu Kyi plus 10 others you can use for your presentations

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
 They have their exits and their entrances..."
Shakespeare’s  “As You Like It”  Act 2 Scene 7 Jacques' soliloquy

Entrances and Openings
Powerful speakers start powerfully and Aung Sang Suu Kyi is a powerful speaker

 Like an actor  any presenter must make an entrance on stage, You must prepare and rehearse your opening so that you look at your audience, not at your notes, as you deliver it.

Greet your audience with a smile and a friendly greeting as you introduce yourself. 

 Then make sure that the opening to your presentation is one which grabs their attention.

  Before considering a number of different opening techniques which will help you to make an impact right at the start of your presentation, here are two things  to avoid:

  1.     Don't apologise.  You may think that it will relax the audience and make you sound friendly, but it will lose you their confidence and their attention.
  2.    Don't use a ‘Title opening’.  To start by saying "I'm going to talk to you today about my proposals for the re-organisation of the quality system", is both unnecessary (they probably know that already) and lacking in interest.

Here then are six techniques for ensuring that your opening makes an impact and holds the attention of your audience:

1. STORY - Memories as uses by Aung Sang Suu Kyi

Audiences enjoy listening to stories but make sure that the story you tell is relevant to them and does not contain too much `I appeal'. Keep it brief and ensure that it offers a smooth link into the Central Theme.

Addressing an audience on 20th June 2012 of distinguished academics and students at Oxford University’s Sheldonian Theatre after collecting her degree, Burmese Opposition leader and Nobel Laureate Ms Suu Kyi said: ( Notice also the use of the rhythmic patter of threes * throughout this opening)

“Today, many strands of my life have come together: the years* that I spent as a student at St Hugh’s ( her College), the years* that I spent at Park Town as a wife and mother, the years* I spent under house arrest when the University of Oxford stood up and spoke up for me.

“During the most difficult years I was upheld by memories of Oxford. Those were among the most important inner resources, and helped me to cope with all the challenges I had to face.

“The memories were in fact very simple ones: *summer days like these, *reading on the lawn at St Hugh’s or *being in the library not looking at a book but out of the window.”

“These are very precious memories because I had lived a happy life, and this made me understand so much better the young people of Burma who wanted to live a happy life and had never been given the opportunity to lead one.

“When I see the students at Oxford now - and I met some of them at St Hugh’s yesterday – I see myself again as a young student: *carefree, *happy, *nice.”

Well maybe such an emotional start to your presentation is not appropriate let's look at 5 other approaches to opening a presentation powerfully
2.       QUESTION

          You may begin a presentation on the subject of private pensions by asking
          "Does anybody know how much a typical loaf of bread costs ?"

          Most people respond readily to a question, provided it is not too involved and is relevant to them.  If you get an answer to your question, you will have immediately begun to break down the barrier that can exist between the speaker and the audience.

          It can also be a rhetorical question but the direct question as example above, has the edge.

2.       3.QUOTATION

          This opening is particularly appropriate for a more formal presentation.  Quotations are very popular and you can use well crafted sayings and phrases to your own advantage.

          Quotations can be either amusing:

                   "When money is art  and working is art  good business is the best art of all"

(Andy Warhol 1926-1987 Artist)

          Or it may make a serious point:

"i there's a way to do it better...find it.."

          (Thomas A Edison)

There are many dictionaries of quotations available in libraries and bookshops but always be on the lookout for topical and relevant quotations which you read or hear on the radio or television.  Keep a file for those quotations which you think could be used in your presentations.

4.       FACTUAL

          Evidence of people's thirst for knowledge and for facts is clear in the phenomenal sales of the book "The Guinness Book of Records".  People remember facts and tell them to others, provided that the facts are easy to remember and interesting.

·         " Of the world’s top 250 retailers, 104 have no international operations at all" according to consultancy Deloittes.

·         " If Wal-Mart was classified as a country, it would be the 24th most productive country in the world"

A factual opening can be very effective for a technical presentation.  Look for facts about your business and put them across in an interesting way which will ensure the attention of your audience.


          This opening is particularly useful when you are speaking at an annual conference or on an occasion which marks an anniversary.  It shows that you have done your homework and gives your presentation a sense of occasion.

             "Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.
             The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace.
             Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our for bearers, and true to our founding documents.
             So it has been.
             So it must be with this generation of Americans."

Opening of Inauguration Speech of  President Barack Obama January 2009 after the introductory messages of thanks
In a business presentation a historical opening might go like this
·         " Facebook users upload more than 250 million photos to the site each day. Sean Parker convinced Mark Zuckerberg to add photo sharing, which is now the site's most popular feature. Zuckerberg, at first apparently, was hesitant"


          There will be times when you have to address an audience which may be cynical or even hostile.  This technique can help to overcome these feelings by showing that you are aware of the concerns of your audience.

  "I guess a number of you in this audience today must be thinking - how will these new proposals affect your job?"

When using this technique it is imperative that you are right when you say "I know what you're thinking/ guessing".  This, of course, means that you must have thought carefully about your audience as part of the preparation of your presentation.

Of course it might be worth asking someone as part of your research ahead of the presentation.

Don't choose an opening just because it seems a good opening.  It must be relevant and you must link it into your central theme.


Much of what has been said about the opening, applies also to the closing of your presentation.  Here is a time when the attention of your audience will be at a peak.  Your task is to capitalise on that and not waste a golden opportunity. You need to leave the audience considering your most important message.

All too often this is what presenters do.  They signal the close by saying  "... and my final point is ..."  or  "and in conclusion I would just like to say ..."

The problem with these types of  closing is that when the audience receives the signal they may start packing their briefcase, start checking emails on their smart phones wondering whether they can catch an earlier train etc. 

You run the risk of losing their attention at what should be the most critical part of your presentation.

If you can be skillful and use an effective closing technique, you will find that you close the presentation with confidence, knowing that you have a well prepared and appropriate close which will bring the presentation to a successful conclusion.

Once again, eye contact is essential at this stage.  As you deliver your close, look at the audience, not at your notes, and let them see your sense of purpose and your sincerity. This is the impression that they will take away with them.
Experiment with these closing techniques:
1.       QUESTION

          This may be either a direct or a rhetorical question.  If you posed a question at the opening of your presentation you may return to that question:

·         "Wouldn't you agree that your retirement would be more enjoyable if you did not have to rely solely on you pension?"

          A major benefit of this technique is that your audience will leave your presentation still considering the question you posed.

2.       QUOTATION

On closing, a quotation can be used to summarise your presentation.

          On the subject of training you might quote Usain Bolt  " Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body" Usain Bolt  Jamaican athlete , three time Olympic gold medallist Bejing 2008

          When using quotations, always write them out on a confidence or cue card and make sure that you quote accurately.  Always attribute the quotation to its source.  Whatever your subject, greater minds will have considered it previously.  Their eloquent words are yours to use to great effect.

3.       STORY

          This is an effective closing technique as you can choose an appropriate story so that you leave your audience either on a light note, or on a more serious note.

          Here is a story told by an HR manager at the close of their presentation to their staff:

         "I recently interviewed a young man who said he liked the sound of the job but was disappointed that the salary was less than he received in his previous job.  When I pointed out the generous holiday allowance, he said that the holidays were longer in his previous job.  I told him about the car he would get but he told me he had a bigger and better car in his previous job.  Frustrated, I asked him why he left his previous job.  "They went bust" he told me!"

4.       SUMMARY

          In technical and sales presentations you will need to ensure that the audience remembers the main points of your presentation.  The summary is the best way to do this.
·         "So these are the benefits which my reorganisation proposals will bring about.  First ....."

          The summary is so important at the close of a sales presentation that you should arrange to deal with any questions from your audience before moving into the summary.  In that way you ensure that you end on a high note which you have prepared.


          The alternative close is a tried and tested sales technique.  It works because it concentrates the minds of your audience on the choices you have given them and ignores the unspoken possibility of doing nothing.  It can however be used in all types of presentation.

·         "The choice is yours.  Do we continue to sell our products in the UK alone or do we prepare ourselves to meet the challenge of export by entering the emerging  "BRIC" markets?"

·         "Please speak to me or one of my colleagues at the end of this presentation or alternatively complete the on-line form and  we will contact you within 24 hours."

6.      Appeal for help Appeal to  ACTION
          There will be times, especially if you seek to inspire an audience, when you must close with a clear call for action. 

Mural Painting in Brighton,
 Sussex, England of
 Aung San Suu Kyi

              A day after her address at Oxford University mentioned at the start of this post with the illustration of a Story opening to her presentation in Oxford, the Burmese opposition leader and Nobel laureate Ms Suu Kyi made an historic address to both houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall on June 21st 2012 concluded her speech by saying there was a lot more work to be done before reform in Burma was complete.
S           She said: "I would ask that our friends, both here in Britain and beyond, participate in and support Burma's efforts towards the establishment of a truly democratic and just society."

"Thank you for giving me this opportunity to address the members of one of the oldest democratic societies in the world. Thank you for letting me into your midst.
 My country has not yet entered the ranks of truly democratic societies but I am confident we will get there before too long with your help."

 In a business presentation it  may be that having examined a number of possible investment opportunities for your senior management, you have to close your presentation with a clear recommendation of the one you consider most appropriate.
          Or, having inspired  for example your sales team with the details of your new product launch, you have to tell them  "The preparation has been done, you've told us you like the product, now go out and sell it as only you can ! ".

If you experiment with these opening and closing techniques you will add impact and professionalism to your presentations.  You will ensure that you retain the attention of your audience and increase the likelihood of you making a Effective Business Presentation.

Related Links

Tips to control nerves  at business presentations
Use of VOICE in Effective Business Presentations
Tips on resenting with PowerPoint in business
Presentation Skills

1 comment:

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