Openings have more crucial responsibilities than any other part of your speech. Although the following list may seem daunting, remember that one well-crafted opening can combine many tasks into just a few minutes or sentences. Getting attention is the key task of any opening, but it's not the extent of your opening's responsibilities. Here's a list of criteria for a powerful opening:
Get the audience's attention. How you get it is not nearly as important as making sure you get it.
Build a bridge between what went on before and what is to come—your presentation. That's why people thank the introducer or refer back to previous speakers.
Let the audience know your purpose and objectives.
Get the members of your audience involved in your topic, your mission. You want their support, and you want them on your side.
Build expectations for what is to follow. Be careful about starting with a great joke you've practiced and then going into a list of facts and figures; your audience will feel let down.
Build a connection with the audience. Warm up the audience; relax them and show them they will have a good time listening to you, that you won't bore them. You're not putting them to sleep; you're saying, "It's okay, you're in good hands."
Make the listeners confident in you by showing how they will profit from and enjoy what they're about to hear.
Let the audience know you are in control. Give any necessary directions, such as how and when you will deal with questions or handouts. Explain everything up front.
Disclose something about yourself to further gain the audience's support by showing that you are human, fallible, or whatever is appropriate to the occasion.
Let the people in the audience know you're glad to be with them. This can be evident from your own enthusiasm; you can also address a compliment directly to the members of your audience, or disclose something about yourself in a way that shows you are relaxed around them.
Openings have to do a lot, but speakers have great freedom in crafting them—an advantage that other writers, such as playwrights and novelists, lack. You don't have to confine your story to a character's personality or to history. You can use all kinds of visual and audio aids. You don't have to keep the action tied to a specific place and time. You can roam from past to present to future, all in one sentence. You can draw your sources from almost any context. Above all, you can adjust and tailor your message to the specific audience you're addressing.