Lesson 9 Start with a Bang

You might be wondering why you’re writing your introduction last, rather than frst. After all, the intro- duction 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 fnal product will be until it’s fnished.

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 miss-



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ing 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:

n Keep the audience’s attention
n State your credentials
n Introduce your topic or thesis
n Introduce your major sub-points n Give them a reason to listen

keep the audience’s attention

When you frst 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 pay- ing 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 fnger 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 pay- ing attention to your words. Actually, the frst part of that equation is fairly simple; the fact is, the moment you start to speak, most of the audience will lose inter- est 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 accom- plish that task:

n Use a quotation. You’ve probably noticed that each chapter in this book starts with a quota- tion. Notice that each is short, capturing the essence of the lesson in a few words. Many are

also humorous. These are good guidelines in

fnding suitable quotations.
n 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.

n 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.

n Cite a historic event. This is particularly useful on special occasions. “Just ten years ago today, this lovely couple frst met at the National Pie- Eating fnals.”

n 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 organiza- tion 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 per- sonally, you will want to acquaint them with your credentials. They will wonder why you are qualifed to teach them about your topic; they will want to know how you know what you’re talking about. Put


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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 fgures. You would be far more likely to accept the recommendation of a bona fde 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 auto- biography here; you will want to focus specifcally on things that give you credibility regarding your speech topic—and nothing more.

Here are a few things that can boost your credibility:

n 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.

n Be prepared. Nothing builds your confdence as well as knowing what you’re about to say.

n 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 audi- ence as you begin to speak.

n Know your credentials—and theirs. Telling an audience of rocket scientists about your experi- ences with paper airplanes won’t gain you cred- ibility. Know in advance where your strengths lie and then tell them to the audience.

introduce Your topic or thesis

The purpose of an introduction is to introduce. That may sound self-evident, but think about its implica- tions. 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 intro- duces the topic to the audience, whether they are deeply knowledgeable on it or not. It focuses on what the audi- ence 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 infor- mation,theywill.Yourintroductionmustcatertothis “need to know.”

introduce Your Major Sub-Points

This will be a natural extension of the introduction of your topic or thesis. If you tell the audience that you’re going to prove some startling opinion, you will also want to tell them what main pieces of proof you’ll be offering. If you are addressing a topic with which the audience is already familiar, then you’ll be stressing the aspects of your speech that will be new to them.

Remember the adage we opened with: “Tell them what you’ll tell them; tell them; then tell them what you told them.” You are only telling them what points you’re going to cover; you’re not actually covering them yet—so keep it brief. Introduce each point with one sentence at the most.

give them a reason to listen

This is essentially the same technique that you used in your conclusion when you provided closure—except that this time you’re providing an opener. This is the big picture that we mentioned in the last lesson, or


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the overview of where you’re going and why you’re going there. This is the time to tell the audience how your speech will infuence their lives.

You don’t need to get into specifcs here; you’ll do that in the conclusion. All the same, the audience will be interested in listening if they know that your talk will have real-life, practical application in their lives. This is the time to let them know how your speech will be useful to them.

be brief

Like the conclusion, your introduction is merely a summary; it is not the body of the speech. If you have crafted it well, your audience will actually be eager to hear what you have to say—so get going!

introducing our examples

Let’s return once again to our speech examples. Here are ways that we might introduce each of those speeches:

Toothpaste Speech:

Good morning, and thank you for coming today. And believe me in this: You’ll be glad you did, because today I’m going to change your life. In fact, I’m going to change your very smile—I’m going to offer you a better reason to smile!

Nice smiles are a passion of mine. When I was six years old, I managed to knock most of my teeth out by riding my bicycle into a tree. That experience taught me two things: Trees are hard, and teeth are important. Fortunately, my adult teeth came in to replace them, but I’ve spent most of my life learning how to take proper care of that set—because they can’t be replaced!

And that is just what we’ll be discussing here this morning: how to protect your smile. I’m sure you all use toothpaste every day, but are you sure

you’re using the best toothpaste? I’d like to offer you a comparison which will demonstrate that all toothpastes are not created alike; in fact, some are remarkably better than others. To that end, we’ll consider three important elements of toothpaste selection: cavity prevention, whitening effects, and cost. When we’re done, I think you’ll agree that toothpaste A outperforms all its competitors, namely toothpaste B—and this is what is going to change your life.

First, let’s consider the element of cavity protection. . . .

Painting Speech:

Good afternoon, it’s a real privilege to be invited to speak to such an illustrious group of artists! I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of your own paint- ing projects, and I was deeply impressed by the measure of expertise and artistry in them. I was awed by the lifelike qualities in several horses, and when I got to the section of military miniatures. . . well, I was ready to surrender!

I’ve been painting miniatures since I was old enough to smear my fngerprints on my mom’s newly painted white walls, which was also around the time I learned not to eat the paint. My own specialty is in the realm of fantasy fgures, since I have a real passion for anything that looks remotely medieval. I’ve brought a few of my own favorites, which I’ll have here on the table for you to check out when we’re done.

I’d like to consider some of the fner points of brushwork and paint selection this afternoon, pay- ing particular attention to how the miniature’s construction infuences those decisions. We’ll start with the various types of paint, discussing more than just the basics as we consider what works best in different conditions. Then we’ll turn our atten- tion to the actual brushwork techniques we can use to accomplish different effects, and we’ll conclude by considering how different media can limit and expand our horizons. By the time we’re done, I


think you’ll be armed to make intelligent decisions on how to paint before you paint—and this can only improve your fnal product.

Let’s begin with the most important decision: which paint to use. . . .