Speech Introductions Help (page 2)
Introduction to Speech Introductions
To persuade a man, you must first gain his attention.
An introduction simply introduces: It introduces something new, or it introduces some new element of something already known. Learn how to get and hold the audience's attention by creating a strong introduction.
You might be wondering why you're writing your introduction last, rather than first. After all, the introduction is the opening of your speech, so wouldn't it make more sense to begin at the beginning?
The introduction of your speech tells your audience where you'll be going and how you'll get there—but you can't really be sure of those details until you have actually written the speech! For example, the introduction to this book was the very last thing I wrote, even though I worked from an outline. Books and speeches in some measure write themselves, and you cannot be entirely sure of what your final product will be until it's finished.
Therefore, it makes more sense to write your introduction after you know clearly what it is that you'll be introducing. And now that you've written the bulk of your speech, you're ready to do that.
To summarize the role of your introduction: "Tell them what you're going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you told them." In fact, the introduction is similar to the conclusion in many ways. You'll state your thesis, outline the major points, and explain how your topic will be of value to the audience. The only thing missing is a call to action, and even that has a counterpart when you give them a reason to listen. Here are the major things to accomplish in your introduction:
- Keep the audience's attention
- State your credentials
- Introduce your topic or thesis
- Introduce your major sub-points
- Give them a reason to listen
Before the Speech
Keep the Audience's Attention
When you first walk to the front to give your speech, you will have the audience's attention—so your job is to keep it! Understand, however, that they may be paying attention for all the wrong reasons. They might wonder who that stranger is, or they might wonder why you were selected to speak instead of them. They might be evaluating your taste in fashion, checking your ring finger to see if you're married, comparing you to the previous speaker, or admiring your new haircut. And a few might even be wondering what interesting things you're going to say.
Whatever their reason for paying attention, you don't want to waste that moment. The trick is to get the audience to stop paying attention to you and start paying attention to your words. Actually, the first part of that equation is fairly simple; the fact is, the moment you start to speak, most of the audience will lose interest in whatever had their attention a moment before. Your job is to transfer that attention to your words and not let it wander away.
Here are some techniques you can use to accomplish that task:
- Use a quotation. You've probably noticed that each chapter in this book starts with a quotation. Notice that each is short, capturing the essence of the lesson in a few words. Many are also humorous. These are good guidelines in finding suitable quotations.
- Tell an anecdote or joke. Like the quotation, however, make it short and to the point. It should lead naturally into the topic that you'll be speaking about.
- Cite a startling fact. It can be a real attention-getter to start with something like this: "We all use toothpaste, but did you know that potassium cyanide is the main ingredient in some brands?" Just make sure that your facts are correct.
- Cite a historic event. This is particularly useful on special occasions. "Just ten years ago today, this lovely couple first met at the National Pie-Eating finals."
- Cite a current event. This is a very useful way to introduce a persuasive speech. "In light of the recent events in Washington, it is our duty to consider ways to reform our judicial system."
State Your Credentials
It is possible that you will be speaking to an organization of which you are a member, and the audience may already know you quite well. It is even possible that the common bond that draws you all together is the very topic that you'll be speaking about, such as you'd have with a photography club or musicians' organization. Yet even then, they may not know about your extensive knowledge on some branch of that common bond, and they won't know how your topic has enriched your life. And the fact is that most of your experiences speaking in public will not be to such an audience; you may often be addressing a group of people who know very little about you.
Whether or not your audience knows you personally, you will want to acquaint them with your credentials. They will wonder why you are qualified to teach them about your topic; they will want to know how you know what you're talking about. Put yourself in your listener's place: You would not be likely to change your brand of toothpaste just because some stranger accosts you on the street and starts rattling off facts and figures. You would be far more likely to accept the recommendation of a bona fide dentist, because this person has the credentials to know what he or she is talking about.
You are not going to give the audience your autobiography here; you will want to focus specifically on things that give you credibility regarding your speech topic—and nothing more.
Here are a few things that can boost your credibility:
- Dress appropriately. Anticipate how your audience will dress—then go one notch better. If they'll be in jeans and t-shirts, then you should wear dress slacks and an oxford shirt, and so forth.
- Be prepared. Nothing builds your confidence as well as knowing what you're about to say.
- Stand up straight. It's a common temptation to slouch when nervous, so be conscious of this as you walk to the front. Stand straight with your chin up and look directly out at the audience as you begin to speak.
- Know your credentials—and theirs. Telling an audience of rocket scientists about your experiences with paper airplanes won't gain you credibility. Know in advance where your strengths lie and then tell them to the audience.
Elements of a Good Introduction
Introduce Your Topic or Thesis
The purpose of an introduction is to introduce. That may sound self-evident, but think about its implications. You can be introduced to something or someone that you've never encountered before; and you can have something that is very familiar introduced to your attention; you can even be introduced to a whole new aspect of someone or something that you have long thought you understood fully.
This is just how an introduction works. It introduces the topic to the audience, whether they are deeply knowledgeable on it or not. It focuses on what the audience already knows, and tells them how you're going to show them something they don't know. Fortunately, you covered this base in Lesson 1 when you analyzed the audience. By this point, you know what topics are of interest to your listeners, and you also know how deep their knowledge is on your topic.
Remember this important fact: If the audience thinks they already know what you're going to say, they won't listen; if they think you've got some new information, they will. Your introduction must cater to this "need to know."
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