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How to start your next speech or presentation with impact!

When you need to deliver a speech with impact – you can borrow this technique used by President Obama in his powerful speech at the 70-th anniversary of D-Day.


Imagine the high expectation for this speech!

In my opinion, Obama’s speech introduction was so powerful – and with impact – a grand speech celebrating a grand moment.


Instead of starting off with the usual formal welcome or Thank You (or agenda in the case of most business presentations) – Obama starts with a kick-ass line and then plunges us into the drama and suspense.

Then…after the kick-ass opening – the formal welcome.

Please, experience his words – then I’ll breakdown the techniques you can use.


obama normandy

Links to the full transcript and some news reports and photographs (including the photo above) at the end of this post.

If prayer were made of sound, the skies over England that night would have deafened the world.

Captains paced their decks. Pilots tapped their gauges. Commanders pored over maps, fully aware that for all the months of meticulous planning, everything could go wrong: the winds, the tides, the element of surprise — and above all, the audacious bet that what waited on the other side of the Channel would compel men not to shrink away, but to charge ahead.

Fresh-faced GIs rubbed trinkets, kissed pictures of sweethearts, checked and re-checked their equipment. “God,” asked one, “Give me guts.” And in the pre-dawn hours, planes rumbled down runways; gliders and paratroopers slipped through the sky; giant screws began to turn on an armada that looked like more ships than sea. And more than 150,000 souls set off towards this tiny sliver of sand upon which hung more than the fate of a war, but the course of human history.


President Hollande, distinguished guests, I am honored to…



1. A powerful first sentence using the evocative sense of sound – then a pause.

This reminds me of a scene from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life where you can imagine the chorus of prayers in the night. This appeals to “my mind’s ear”

2. the rule of 3s and parallel structure.

The rule of 3s allows you to say a lot in a short space.

The parallel structure provides strength and solidity – the repeated structure.

For example, in these lines:

Plural nouns – verbs – objects

Captains paced their decks.

Pilots tapped their gauges.

Commanders pored over maps


and again:

the winds

the tides

the element of surprise

and again:

Fresh-faced GIs:

1. rubbed trinkets

2. kissed pictures of sweethearts,

3. checked and re-checked their equipment



3. Introducing a short and powerful quote high up in the introduction – introducing a human voice of a character in the story


“God,” asked one, “Give me guts.”


4. Then the formal introduction – AFTER the quick scene-setting impact


I don’t want to spoil the magic of the speech by over-analysis. I want to show you how you can craft a powerful introduction to your next speech or presentation.

As a speechwriter and former accredited defence correspondent with a love of military history – I love “breaking down” great speeches into achievable steps and showing others how they can benefit from some of the techniques.


Don’t over-do it – but do start strongly.

Do use the power of the rule of 3s and parallel structure.

Do start with impact before the formal introduction.

Or as I say when I help improve business presentations:

Drama – before agenda.


Here are the links:

1. transcription + video – when you watch the video, note how Obama uses the power of pause to let the words sink in!

transcript and video




TB LL mosaic


If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.


Linked In – under Tony Biancotti

Or you can follow this blog.

These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication etc. I like to help people COPE.






One comment on “How to start your next speech or presentation with impact!

  1. efangelist
    December 11, 2015

    Reblogged this on efangelist.

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