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When entering a place or meet a group of people or starting a speech, how do you say hello to the audience (from a few to thousands of people). I know that this depends on the situation. I think it is common to say

Hello, folks!

But what are some appropriate ways to say hello to initiate a connection with a group of people in different situations?

  1. Formal
  2. Formal but friendly
  3. Informal

Apart from common salutations, can you also suggest creative solutions, which may be unusual but acceptable to a native speaker?

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Creative solutions may be found on writersSE or elsewhere. –  Kris May 1 '13 at 13:24
    
@Kris I'm not specifically looking for a creative expression, I just quoted that it is OK to me if an idea is creative and less common. –  All May 1 '13 at 14:19

2 Answers 2

Your “Hello, folks!” sounds a bit odd to my ear.

In a colloquial register, one often says “Hi guys”, and one uses this irrespective of the gender distribution in the group addressed.

A more Southern-sounding version is “Hey y’all”.

An extremely informal version is “Hello people”.

In a more formal register, “Good morning/afternoon/evening, ladies and gentlemen” is the customary and expected form.

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3  
Geoff Boycott always uses "Hello, everybody." And he's rarely wrong. –  Edwin Ashworth May 1 '13 at 18:26

In English, greetings like Hello and Hi and Good Morning don't change if you are addressing one, a few, or thousands of people. It's quite common to add something to note that you are greeting many people, such as "Hello everyone" or "Good morning everyone" and certainly there is a range of formality in what you choose to put there.

To my ear, most-to-least formal would be:

  • Good morning/afternoon/evening
  • Welcome (this also carries an implication that you are the host and "in charge" of the get-together
  • Hello
  • Hi
  • Hi there
  • Howdy / Hey
  • S'Up?

And for the group-indicator, again most-to-least formal:

  • [List of titles such as Madam Speaker, Sir Thompson, Mr President], [categories with adjectives such as honoured judges, dear guests], ... , ladies and gentlemen (this particular choice for the group-indicator allows you to omit hello/hi entirely and just launch into the list, but it requires you to end with ladies and gentlemen so that people know you have finished listing)
  • Ladies and gentlemen
  • everyone
  • [nothing]
  • friends / folks / team

Avoid mixing and matching: both hey there, ladies and gentlemen, let's rock! and S'up, honoured guests? are kind of weird. Not impossible to use, but definitely an expert technique. It's fine to say Good morning folks though.

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