Roughly 99% of public speakers ruin their speeches in the first sentence.


They start off their speech by thanking the audience.

No one cares about that.

No one doubts that you’re excited to be there.

No one needs you to reintroduce yourself right after the host of the event did.

But you’ve heard speeches start that same way.

“I’m so honored to be here. My name is Jon Acuff and I’m excited that I get to be here with you today.”

There’s nothing exciting, interesting or engaging in those words. The worst part is that you never get an audience to join you in the middle or the end of your speech.

The beginning seals the deal or ruins everything for you. (Great books like Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln first exposed me to this common problem.)

What should you do instead?

I suggest a “lean in line.”

That’s when you start with an opening statement that forces the entire audience to lean in and wonder what you are going to say next.

For example, I’m speaking at an event this Friday. Know what I’m going to say, right out of the gate?

“Six weeks ago, a balloon animal guy looked down on me in the middle of a dark playground.”

Then I’m going to pause and give the questions in the crowd a minute to bloom.

Why did the balloon animal guy look down on you?

Why were you on a dark playground with a balloon animal guy?

Where is this going to go next?

You’ve got the briefest moment of time to create some curiosity. Don’t throw it away on a hollow “thanks for having me” sentence. (You can thank the audience in the middle of the speech if you must.)

Open with a lean in line.