First impressions are very important, as you know. A poor beginning may so distract or alienate your audience that you may never recover. Having a good beginning is a confidence booster and will propel you into the rest of your speech.
In most speeches, just as in an essay, there are three objectives you need to accomplish at the outset:
- Get the attention and interest of your audience.
- Reveal the topic of your speech.
- Establish your credibility and goodwill.
Before beginning your speech, wait until you have the attention of your audience. Look at them and wait until all eyes are on you.
If when you did your audience analysis, you determined that this topic will be of interest to them, keeping their attention is the only worry you have. If you determined that they will have little interest, you must generate some. Here are some methods to help you:
Bring the topic home to your listeners. They will be more likely to be interested if the topic relates to their personal lives.
Show your audience why your topic is important. Using statistics would be useful in this area if you have them.
Sharing a shocking statistic or making a bold statement will grab the attention of your audience as well as introduce them to your topic.
Draw your audience into your speech with several statements that pique their curiosity.
Asking a rhetorical question or a series of questions is another way to get the attention of your listeners.
Beginning with a quote from a famous writer, from the Bible or other books, from a poem or song, from a television show or movie, is another way to arouse the interest of your listeners.
We all love stories and they work well in your introduction. Be sure that your story relates to your topic and you are not just telling it for a laugh.
In the process of gaining attention, be sure to state clearly the topic of your speech. If you do not, your listeners will be confused. And once they are confused, your chances of getting them absorbed in the speech are almost nil. This is so basic, that it seems silly to have to mention it, but many speakers fail to do this.
The last objective in the introduction is to establish your credibility, why you’re qualified to speak on this subject. Give your audience some reasons to believe that you know what you are talking about.
Establishing goodwill is essential if you are speaking to a hostile audience. You must make an effort to ensure that at your audience will at least consider your point of view.
Your final impression will probably linger longer in the minds of your audience. The conclusion has two functions:
- To let the audience know you are ending the speech.
- To reinforce the audience’s understanding of, or commitment to, the central idea.
It may seem obvious that you should let the audience know that you have come to the end of your speech, but some speakers end so abruptly that the audience is taken by surprise.
How do you end? One way is by using phrases like, “In conclusion,” “In closing,”
“Let me end by saying,” “My purpose has been,” or words to that effect. You can also let your audience know by the manner of your delivery, building to a climax.
Here are several ways to reinforce your central idea:
- Summarize your Speech
- Restate the main points in different words.
- End with a quotation
- Make a dramatic statement
- Refer to the introduction
- Circle back to end where you began