The beginning of a speech is undoubtedly the most important part, as this makes or breaks your audiences and either engages them from the start or subconsciously gives them a reason to switch off. Make sure you get it right and start your speech with a bang.
Be familiar with your material and any facts, names or figures you are planning to use. If you are constantly looking down or shuffling papers, you will lose your audience and any charisma or confidence you may have had. Practice beforehand until you are completely comfortable with your subject matter.
Walk to the stage or podium and smile. Be quiet for at least 3 seconds while looking at your audience and smiling. This will immediately engage your audience as they are waiting to see what will happen next, and it shows you as a poised and confident speaker with the promise of a good speech.
Start with a quote, a number or a fact, preferably something that is surprising or unusual, that the audience hasn't heard before. Opening with a statement and launching into your speech is much more engaging than a "Welcome ladies and gentlemen" or "I am going to talk about," which the audience has heard many times before.
Use the first 2 minutes to set the scene and build up the anticipation. The best way to do this is by using lots of surprising facts or a story narrative that will build the foundation and let people allow themselves to be swept along, wanting to see where you will lead them.
Keep groups of thoughts together and avoid straying randomly to different topics or areas of your speech. Keeping your thoughts and subject matter ordered will make it much easier for people to follow what you are saying and will therefore make the beginning of your speech more enjoyable.