The Introduction

The introduction of your speech is your first chance to connect with your audience—take advantage of it! Arguably, the introduction is the “make-it-or-break-it” area of the speech because your audience often uses the introduction to decide if they want to listen to the speech. If you can find the right combination of material and formatting, the introduction will set you up for success. 

Attention Getter

The attention getter is just what it sounds like—a device to grab the attention of your audience from the very start of your presentation. These should be delivered as the very first thing your say during a speech and can come before you tell the audience your name and topic. Attention getters come in many different forms and their effectiveness and appropriateness depends on many factors, including your, topic, purpose, and speaking style. Keep in mind that whatever you choose to use for your attention getter will also serve as a great option for your closure at the end of the speech. Some of the most popular and effective attention getters include: 

Questions

Asking your audience to think about your topic is always a good idea. If an audience is thinking about your topic and responding, in some form, to your questions, you have their attention. Beware: not all questions are equally effective. Use rhetorical and show-of-hands questions instead of questions that ask the audience to verbally respond. Rhetorical questions are not meant to be answered and only provoke thought. Show of hands questions allow the audience to both mentally and physically engage with you. However, if you ask a question that needs a verbal response during a timed speech you risk the response being too long or awkwardly short. 

Pro Tips: 1.) Don’t ask questions that might embarrass your audience if they respond truthfully. 2.) A good way to get more audience engagement is to ask if the audience member or someone they knowhas ever had an experience with your question’s topic. 3.) Ask multiple, related questions.

Shocking Facts or Statistics

Have you ever heard or read a statistic that caught you off guard and made you want to double check if you heard or read it correctly?  Finding out information like that the average college graduate has nearly $40,000 of debt, or that more school children were killed in the classroom in 2018 than military members in combat zones can be quite shocking. Using a fact or statistic such as these can be an effective way to get your audience to think about your topic. 

Pro Tips: 1.) Always make sure that your fact/statistic relates clearly to your topic and that you are not using it simply to get a rise out of your audience. 2.) Consider your audience’s expectation when deciding if the shocking information is too graphic and/or inappropriate for the setting. 3.) If you want to make the fact/statistic more impactful to your specific audience, tell them how it relates to them (Example: if you tell an audience of college students that 1-in-4 of them have an STD/STI, count off the room or ask them to look to their left and right, front or back then ask if they are confident it is not them). 

Telling a Story

Humans are natural storytellers. We have used stories to share information with each other for as long as we have been able to speak (long before we could write). Whether it’s a story your grandparent told you when you were young, a parable from a religious text, or fairytale we’ve all heard before, stories are everywhere. Why do we still use stories? Because they work! One very effective way to get an audience’s attention is to begin (and end) by telling them a story related to your topic. For example, if your speech is about exercise and you tell the audience about the first time you seriously worked out and how terrible it might have felt, most of your audience will be able to relate their experiences to your own. This is how stories create connections between people. What if you do not have a personal story that relates to your topic? No problem. Find an existing story or create your own. Beware: you cannot make up a story and then tell the audience that it is real or that it happened to a real person. In this case, you are using a hypothetical illustration to make a point and that is different than deceiving your audience. 

Pro Tips: 1.) Be sure to tell your story with vivid detail. Include descriptions of items, names of people, and the context of the setting as these details make it easier for your audience to visualize your words. 2.) For maximum impact, start your story, get to a cliffhanging moment, stop the story and deliver the content of the speech, then finish the story at the very end of your speech (closure). 3.) Write out the entire story and practice it as to get an accurate idea of how long the story will take to tell.  

Self/Topic Introduction

While your classmates likely know your name and topic for a classroom presentation, other settings and audiences might not have this information. So, be sure to tell the audience who you are and the topic on which you will be speaking. Be concise, keep it simple, and let the rest of the introduction’s elements do their jobs. 

Statement of Purpose=

How do you know if you have been successful in various aspects of life? Often, we set goals and then later see if we have reached them. The same goal-setting idea can be applied to a speech. The statement of purpose is a listening goal for your audience. What do you want them to learn, feel, or do by the end of your speech? Figure out that answer and then tell them. If the goal of a speech is to encourage people to recycle, you might simply say, “By the end of today’s talk, you should feel encouraged or more encouraged to recycle.” Again, keep it simple and don’t overthink the goal. 

Thesis Statement/Central Idea

Remember learning what a thesis was in an English class at some point around middle school? Good news: nothing has changed. A thesis for a paper and a speech are the same idea, typically take the form of a single sentence or line, and should make a clear and concise claim. If a speech’s goal is to persuade the audience to get more sleep, the thesis might be something like, “People are not getting enough sleep and negative consequences need to be considered.” Remember to keep your thesis limited to a single line and summarize your main idea without adding so much detail that you need several commas and semicolons to get the job done. 

Pro Tips: 1.) Sometimes it is easier to begin with multiple sentences and then refine them down until you have a single, concise sentence. 2.) If you are struggling with the larger idea of a thesis for a speech follow these steps: A.) Think of your favorite movie. B.) Go to IMDB.com and search for that movie. C.) Near the top of the movie’s page you will see a single sentence description of the movie. This is, in fact, the film’s thesis. Try a few different examples and see if that helps you get a clearer picture of a thesis model. D.) Save the thesis until the end of your outline as it is difficult to summarize a speech that is yet to be completed. 

Relevance 

We have all heard a message and asked ourselves, “Why should I care about this?” Since you do not want your audience to ask themselves this question, go ahead and answer it for them. Tell your audience, in as specific terms as possible, why they should care about your topic and speech. For some, this seems obvious. If you are speaking about global warming the connection is that we all share one single planet. On one hand, if you are speaking about college cost and value in a college classroom, the audience likely already primed to hear your speech. On the other hand, if you are speaking about reforming physical education classes in K-12 schools, you will need to do an outstanding job of showing how the health of our nation’s next generation impacts all of us. For topics like this, those that are not clearly connected to your specific audience, think about the ways in which all things are connected and take the time to concept map or brainstorm your possibilities. 

Pro Tips: 1.) Give the audience more than one reason to listen. 2.) If you are not sure if your reasons for the audience to care are going to be effective, you should come up with new ideas or test them on someone else.

Preview of Main Points

I.

II.

III.

 

First of all, there is space for three main points in this sample outline. Some professors may require a number of main points other than three and some occasions may benefit from adding or reducing this figure. However, as a general rule, try to use three main points so the audience does not feel overloaded with information and can follow it without working too hard. The preview of main points is the first step in helping your audience follow your speech clearly. Here, you will number and list your main points in order. This shows your audience that you have a plan for the next few minutes of their time and that you are organized and prepared. 

Pro Tips: 1.) It is often easier to establish your main points and then build the rest of the speech around them. 2.) In your speech, you will preview your main points, deliver them, and then review your main points. This will feel repetitive as you prepare and deliver the speech—because it is and it is by design. By constantly reminding the audience of your main points, it makes them easier to remember and follow. This added clarity is invaluable in the speaking process. As the “speech world” saying goes, “Good speakers will tell you what they are going to tell you, tell you, and then tell you what they told you!”

Transition from Introduction to Body

Unlike papers, speeches do not have the advantage of large, bold headings that separate major sections. Instead, speeches rely on the speaker to move audiences between parts of the speech. To do this effectively, transitions should be explicit and complete. The transition between the introduction and the body should begin with a signal word or phrase to make its purpose clear. To beginFor startersTo kick things offTo get things going and more are all options that will make it clear to the audience that you are moving into the body of your presentation. Your choice of signal will depend on your topic, style, and level of formality. To complete the transition, simply name your first main point. This might sound something like, “To begin today, I want to give you some background information on the process and industry of recycling.”