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Ideas on How to Open Your Speeches

by Richard D Boyce

posted in Writing and Speaking

Syndicate This Article
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The opening of your speech is perhaps the most important part of the speech. It sets the tone for the whole speech and influences how the audience will view your speech. It must create interest in their minds and lead them into the theme/message of your speech.
Plan and write your introduction first. Its length must give you time to expand the points you want to make in the speech. You must practice it until you are word-perfect.
Below I offer seven different examples of how I opened my speeches to leave my audience wanting to hear the remainder of my speech.
Let me start with one that startled the audience and helped me make it to the final of a competition. I began with the verse of a Rock and Roll ballad of my youth. It was called "One Last Kiss" and the title of the speech was "One Last Shot". It began like this: "One last kiss. Oh, baby, one last kiss
It never felt like this. Oh, baby, not like this.
I know I need your love. Oh, oh, oh,
Give me one last kiss". (Sung by the speaker)
With my apologies to Gene Pitney, one of my favourite rock stars of my teenage years.
The love struck teenage boy in the song believes that if his sweetheart will give him one last kiss then he'll have one last shot at rekindling their romance.
Yet another successful opening that led to my going further in a competition was a chant that introduced a speech with the title "Red". Can you imagine the reaction of the audience when I chanted loudly "Black! Black! Black!" and a few sentences later chanted "Red! Red! Red!" Here is how the opening went.
"Black! Black! Black!" That's the chant we hear when we watch the New Zealand All Blacks play the Australian Wallabies in a Rugby test. I'm sure if the Chinese were involved in a traditional sporting contest like that one, then the chant "Red! Red!, Red!" would echo around the stadium. The Chinese believe that red is their lucky and happy colour. So they loved to be surrounded by red objects in their homes.
A Mathematics teacher by training, I often like to involve Mathematics in some way in my speeches. Defining terms is part and parcel of Geometry. So, in a speech, "Thinking outside the Square" I decided to begin the speech by defining each of the words in the title in geometric terms as a starting point for the speech. It then allowed me define the topic in such a way as to imply the theme of the speech.
Let me begin by defining the topic "Thinking outside the Square".
Thinking is the act of using the mind. (Remember, thinking is the hardest work of all. That's why so few people do it).
Outside implies the opposite of inside. (It is similar to a comparison between change and continuity; safety and danger; ordinary and extraordinary).
Square is a regular polygon. We might suggest it is perfect in shape. All sides, angles and diagonals are equal. The diagonals bisect each other at right angles and form angles of 45 degrees with the sides of the square. The square in our context represents the status quo.
So, in essence, our topic means to do something in a way which is unexpected. It is to do things in a way not done before. It is to try the "undoable".
A speech, "Catch 22", enabled me to open the speech by acting out a scene at a football match to allude strongly to the theme of my speech right at the beginning.
"You are a Mug, "Umpy". Do you forget your glasses? Do you want mine, "Ump"? Read the rule book! Learn the rules, you "pie".
Have you forgotten there are 2 teams on the field?"
Mr Chairman, fellow speakers,
Who would be an umpire when you get abuse like this and worse?
In 1969, I was teaching at a high school, when the first moon landing was about to occur. In the middle of the lesson, the principal of the school announced over the school public address system that classes would cease immediately and all the students could proceed home to watch the moon landing on television. This became the inspiration for this next introduction. I began initially using an authoritarian voice expected of a principal to make the initial introduction to a speech with the title "Never Seen Before".
Attention! Attention! Attention! Teachers and students, this is your headmaster speaking. Attention! Attention!
These words, Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, were spoken by our excited Headmaster on the morning of the 20th July 1969. A short dramatic pause followed before the headmaster continued his announcement over the P.A. system.
Stating your position on the issue strongly can grab the audience attention immediately, particularly if the topic is controversial. That is exactly what I did with a speech, "Easter-Just another long Weekend?" This is how I began.
No! No! No! No thinking Australian would ever say that the Easter break was just another long weekend.
Often a short story as the opening of your speech can introduce the theme of your speech in an interesting way and get your audience on side immediately. In the motivational speech, "the Road less Travelled", the short story introduces the idea that many people don't realise that they are a success. Here what I wrote to open the speech.
I believe for many people the road to success is a road less travelled or so they think. These people believe that their lives don't contain "success" with a capital 'S' let alone with a small 's'. It is my belief that life is full of many successes, small though most of them may be.
Let me illustrate my point. Some years ago, I was playing golf with my oldest daughter boyfriend, Peter. He loved to play golf but was new to the game. On this particular day, he scored 44 for nine holes. But he was disappointed. I asked him what his best score for nine holes had been in the past. He said his score that day. Then I asked him how many pars had he scored in any nine holes he had played before. Just one he replied. 'How many did you have today?' was my next question. "Two" was his reply
These are just seven opening scenarios. Don't be afraid to "think outside the box/square" with your openings. No all your openings will work. That's part of learning experience. When it does work, you'll have a smile on your face when you see that the audience wants to hear more.
About the Author: Our author has written an eBook, "Public Speaking, Speech Writing and a Book of Speeches". It will soon be published on the website http://www.realteachingsolutions.com. In it, he shares his experience gained as a member of Rostrum, (the British version of Toastmasters) on a large number of topics including the more on this topic. The eBook will help the new orator develop a successful presentation persona.
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