Beginning a Speech

The beginning of a speech is very important. An audience will wonder if you care about your subject, and if you’re worth listening to. Here are five pointers to beginning a speech.

1) Start speaking with enthusiasm for your subject, or at least with an attitude that conveys to the audience that you care about what you’ll be talking about. Smile and show some energy or, if a serious subject, try to show your sincerity by giving the audience plenty of eye contact and not rushing your delivery.

2) You need to keep the attention of the audience. Arouse suspense or curiosity by saying something intriguing that piques the audience’s interest, so they’ll want to learn more. Or perhaps use a rhetorical question (a question thrown out to the audience so they can puzzle over it briefly while you pause, before you give them the answer). Can you tell a brief story? People love to hear stories, they engage us very easily. If you start your speech with a story, relevant to your topic and not too long, the audience will listen. Any of these three ways will engage the audience early on in your speech.

3) If possible, think about how your speech would be valuable to your audience, either for their own personal benefit, or for someone close to them such as their children, pets, or elderly relatives. If people can see that what you have to say has a direct benefit to themselves, or their close contacts, they will keep listening.

4) Think about giving your audience a sense of what you will be speaking about. Imagine the start of your speech as the start of a journey. As the speaker you have many options of where you could take the audience, but wouldn’t it be a good idea to give them an idea of where they’ll be going? You can spell it out, keep it brief, or just imply it. Use your judgement according to circumstances.

5) Your intention, what you intend to achieve by giving your speech, is especially important if your speech is intended to persuade your audience to think different about a subject, change their behaviour, or commit a specific action e.g. sign a petition. In this case it’s important not to give the audience the impression that your speech is merely informative. Why? In an informative speech the audience absorbs information presented by the speaker, which is quite a passive activity. In a persuasive speech the speaker has to convince the audience that they should do something specific or think differently about something – the audience is being asked to judge the appeal of the speaker’s message: they are being called on to consider its merits. If you can flag up early on in your speech that your intention is to persuade, this allows the audience to recognise what will be asked of them as they listen to your speech.

Post written by Graeme Buck CC

Sergeant at Arms, Waverley Communicators


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