Being a great public speaker will open doors you never thought possible. It will advance your career and create opportunities. If you think about it – most all people that rise to important positions in politics, business, social clubs, and any other large organizations, are GREAT public speakers.
Good public speaking skills are important in other areas of your life, as well. You may be asked to speak at a friend's wedding, give a eulogy for a loved one, give a lesson at church, or inspire a group of volunteers at a charity event.
No matter the reason, public speaking is a skill that if developed, will provide countless benefits throughout your life. In this series I will take you through the three main parts of each speech (The Introduction, The Body, and The Conclusion).
Let's begin with the Introduction.
1. Catch Everyone’s attention Immediately
a. When you get up in front of a group of people, they will decide in about 10-15 seconds whether or not to listen to you or not. In this time, they will form their first impression of you. They will decide if they think you are boring, or interesting. They will decide if what you have to say is worth their time, or NOT worth their time.
b. You can catch the attention of the audience in multiple ways. You can tell a story. You can state an interesting fact. You can pose a thoughtful question. You can tell a joke. It can be anything really… as long as it quickly catches their attention.
c. The first sentence is key! One trick I use is to go right into a story with the first sentence grabbing their attention. For example: We had a screen door that had a glass pane in it. As children, we would run and hit that glass with our hand, the door would fly open and we’d run outside to play. My father always warned us not to do that. In this story, I didn’t listen, and as I ran outside to play with my brother – somehow the lock on the door had latched, and when I ran and hit it with my hand – the door didn’t open… The glass shattered, and I ended up in the hospital getting stitches on my hand.
So… to incorporate this story into a speech as an intro, you need to figure some way to say an attention grabbing line/sentence that you can immediately begin with. Here’s what I did: “As I sat there watching the doctor stitch up the two inch gash in my hand, I thought… Hmmmm…. Maybe my old man does know what he’s talking about.” You see… Now I have immediately caught everyone’s attention! They want to know more now. They are thinking, “What happened to his hand??” or “What did his dad tell him??” Whatever they are thinking… the point is – NOW they are hooked! Now you have their attention. Now they think you are interesting. Now they want to listen to everything else you have to say.
d. Don’t introduce yourself or your topic. (At least not right away.) Chances are if you give a speech or presentation of some kind, everyone already knows who you are. Possibly you were introduced before you started speaking. You don’t need to restate that. This goes back to the idea that you need to catch their attention immediately. Here are some ways NOT to start a speech:
- “Hi, my name is David.”
- “Hi, I’m glad to be here today.”
- “Hi, today I’m going to talk about…”
- “Hi, thank you for having me here today.”
- “Hi, today I was asked to speak about….”
Can you say BORING!!! I can guarantee… if you start your speech with these lines, or something like it, everyone’s brain will shut off almost immediately.
e. Memorize your introduction. When you are speaking to people, you should look at them! You should definitely not be looking down at notes, and under no circumstances reading your speech! NEVER read your speech.
f. You can make notes and refer to them occasionally. But for your introduction and conclusion – the two most important parts of the speech – you should have that memorized. By this, I mean you should have the first 5-10 sentences memorized.
g. Don’t memorize your entire speech. There is a balance here. If you memorize the entire speech, it makes it cold, and people can tell it’s not personalized. Make some notes to jog your memory on what you want to cover and refer to them throughout. By doing this, you can prepare to say what you want, yet keep your speech open enough to customize to the audience. Also, by not memorizing the entire speech, you can avoid losing your place and having one of those awkward pauses where you’re trying to find your place, or rack your brain on what you’re supposed to say next. To avoid this embarrassing moment – only memorize the intro, conclusion, and the main points of your speech.
2. What an introduction should accomplish
a. Your introduction should clearly state and convey what you are going to talk about. You should summarize what you are going to cover. But do this in a creative way. You don’t have to do this by just listing off the three points you are going to talk about. Maybe you can convey what you are going to talk about by posing a couple questions… or telling a story and presenting a dilemma that needs to be solved. This is all about continuing to keep them engaged.
b. Show them why they should listen to you. You can do this by presenting past results. You can do this by listing your credentials. You can do this by presenting a problem or dilemma in their life that needs to be fixed – and YOU have the answers! Again, the key here is to be creative in how you do this. Don’t just say, “Hi, I’m David and I’ve given 1,000 speeches, so you should listen to me.” A better way would be, “When I gave my first toast at my brother’s wedding, I was so nervous, I’m pretty sure I looked like a deer in headlights. But, ten years later when I was standing in front of 1,000 rocket scientists as the key note speaker, I was as smooth as butter! - And I know nothing about Rocket Science!” Here you are telling them: 1. You have over ten years of experience. 2. You have been a keynote speaker. 3. You have given speeches in all sorts of venues, and for multiple sizes of audiences. 4. You’ve given speeches to all types of people and audiences.
c. Your intro should leave a clue or hint or cliffhanger that you will answer as you speak. This is a great little trick.
By following these simple guidelines, your introduction will be sure to impress and grab the audiences attention!
We will continue onto "The Body" of a speech in part two of this series. See you then!