Speech Openings

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Today we’re going to focus on the Opening of a speech.

Many people think that it is an extremely important part

of setting the tone for the rest of the speech.

The biggest reason for this

is simply that it is the first thing that your audience will hear.

The opening is your first impression, and you want to make it count.

You also want to pull your audience in with something interesting.

You want the opening to inform the audience

about what is going to happen in the rest of your speech.

This idea of pulling your audience in is called the hook.

Much like when you are fishing

you’re looking to catch your audience and reel them in.

A hook is any element that grabs the audience’s interest

and makes them want to listen more.

Sometimes this is a joke.

Sometimes this is a rhetorical question.

Sometimes it is a illustration of a problem that you promise to solve.

Today we will look specifically at the opening of a speech I have brought.

But before we do,

I want to make a couple comments

on some of the dos and don’ts of openings.

Do make an impression.

Adding an emotional affect is a good thing.

You can tell a story to lead us to the point of your speech.

Ask an interesting question to make your audience think.

But make sure that question is a rhetorical question

that requires them to think

and not using a format that would lead to a yes or no answer.

Tell a funny joke.

Laughter is a great way to keep people interested.

Don’t tell a story that is irrelevant to your topic.

Don’t tell a joke that isn’t funny.

This can be hard because you may or may not be sure

if the joke is funny or not,

but often stale prepared jokes fall flat.

And the worst thing is when no one laughs.

Don’t ask a question and then wait for an audience member

to raise their hand or to answer you.

Do not expect them to respond.

You are the one in charge of the speech.

You are the expert

and in most cases you do not want to be waiting,

hoping for your audience to respond to you. 

What happens if you ask a question and no one answers,

you simply look at the audience waiting?

It can become very awkward.

Some of the more clichéd ways to start a speech

are with a quote or a dictionary definition.

Do not use these.

If you want to use either of these elements within the speech itself,

go ahead,

but do not open the speech with them.

You want to speak with your own voice and attempt to be original.

Today we will look at a speech one of my students wrote

for an English Speaking Competition.

The topic given was Social Networking in our lives.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why it was such a successful speech.

The very first line reads,

“I am friends with the President of the United States… on Twitter.”

Now as you heard when I read this line,

I paused before the phrase, “on Twitter”.

By doing so I cause surprise and tension within the audience

because the speaker is claiming to be friends with President Obama.

And this creates humor and anticipation.

When she says “on Twitter”, it is both funny and informative.

This helps guide the audience along what the speaker will be discussing.

The rest of the opening paragraph here illustrates that friendship.

The examples are a bit silly and the tone is a bit funny.

They speak about Thanksgiving Blessing that Obama gives.

The thanks for South Korean President Park Geun-hye,

and thank you for re-electing me.

The speaker talks about these very seriously.

By the end

we understand that the speech is about good and unexpected elements of social media.

Now this opening creates interest and begins to express what the speech is about

when it says that social media created unexpected and unprecedented connections.

We understand this to be about connections.

The opening is slightly extended into the body however as we can see here.

In this paragraph,

the speaker undercuts the silly tones and silly ideas from the opening

for something a bit more serious.

The fantasy is in the opening and in this extended opening

that fantasy is juxtaposed by the reality of the situation.

We can see that Obama does not actually know who I am,

and this is the reality that hides behind the illusion of social media.

The last line in this paragraph,

“The truth lies somewhere in between”,

is the final explanation of what the speech is about.

After this the speech attempts to prove this idea.

So as our example shows,

the initial opening can be critical to grabbing the audience’s attention.

Then the rest of the opening should focus

on outlining the ideas and the point of the speech.

These two elements are the most important parts of a good opening.

Remember to use your voice and try to be original.

That’s all for this video on Openings.

Check in next time

as we discuss the other end of the speech, the conclusion or the Ending.

Thanks for watching.