6 techniques for writing attention grabbing speech introductions
Imagine traveling to a new city. It is late in the night. You are very hungry and you are driving around looking for a restaurant. You see two restaurants ... one with a well-lit name board saying "Hotel Ananda". There are plants on both the sides of the walkway and the walkway is maintained neat and clean. You see another restaurant, with a flickering light that hasn't been repaired for a while. The name board isn't very visible. The walkway to the restaurant is covered with dry leaves, used paper cups and trash.
You haven't dined in both the restaurants before. Which one will you choose? You don't know the quality of food inside? But, you decide based on your first impressions.
That is the power of speech introductions. Will you listen to a speaker who starts with a dull 'n boring introduction that make you to yawn (or) the one who starts the speech with full of enthusiasm and tries to grab the audience's attention.
Speech openings should
1) Grab Attention
2) Introduce the Topic to the audience
3) Build Rapport
(Also read: Speech Writing - 5 Wives & 1 Husband technique)
Arouse suspense or curiosity
When you start your speech with a suspense, the curiosity of the listeners increases many folds. Think about the movies that start with someone lying in a pool of blood ... you'll be curious to know who committed the crime. This will keep you glued to the movie, throughout. You can use this technique to write your introductions in toastmasters speeches also.
Here is a method of creating suspense or curiosity in the minds of the audience:
Today, I'm going to talk about a person who was a shy kid during his school days. A person who was very determined and was even ready to give up his life saying "I would rather die instead of eating animal food". A lean old man... who united an entire country for a common cause. A true believer of non-violence. Friends, "Yes... I'm going to talk about the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi".
Make a startling statement
Shock the audience by beginning your speech with a startling statement. Audience typically expect you to begin your speech with the usual "Yada... Yada... Yada...". So, when you begin your speech with a startling statement, you'll put them in a shock. It will help you to get their attention quickly.
Instead of starting with a speech introduction like, "Cancer is a deadly disease. It kills a number of people. Today, I'm going to talk about Cancer and its impact on the society", you can make a startling statement like "17,000 people die of cancer every day. Are you going to be one of them?"
Tell a story
Audience love listening to stories. That is the reason why the movie halls are filled with people, when a movie has a good story line.
Instead of beginning your speech with "I'm going to talk about drink and drive", you can start with a short story like the one given below:
"A dark chill night... time was 12 o'clock. I was walking alone in the road... there was absolute silence... my heart was beating lub dub... lub dud.. rain started drizzling... all of a sudden I heard a loud noice... A car had rammed into a tree. I rushed to the car. The driver was unconscious. There was smell of whisky. Friends, this is what happens when you drink and drive."
Ask a rhetorical question
Politicians are good at using rhetorics to their advantage. They always make (actually, force!?) you to think about the hard facts/reality by asking rhetorical questions.
Instead of beginning your speech with "I'm going to tell you about how to become fit", you can ask "How many of you want to stay fit, but do not have a regular exercise routine? How many of you here take 'new year resolutions' but do not follow them? How many of you have personal goals for which you hardly spend any time? In the next 7 minutes, you are going to learn simple techniques to achieve your goals faster."
Begin with a quotation
Quotes help you to get the attention of the audience quickly. Instead of beginning your speech with an introduction like... "Fellow toastmasters leadership is an important skill that we need to learn. Leadership will make you successful. So, I'm sure you are curious to know more about leadership", you can use quotes to begin your speech.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” a beautiful quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Friends, toastmasters provide an excellent opportunity to become leaders - to create a path for fellow members to follow. Today, I'm going to talk about the benefits of taking leadership roles in toastmasters".
Reference the occasion
Advance speakers, begin their speeches by making a reference to the occasion. In most cases, you'll have to do it off the cuff. Professional trainers begin their training sessions by talking about a news that they read in the local news paper that day ... or by referring to an event that occurred just before the training session.
For example, if you are giving a speech in the chartering ceremony of a toastmasters club, you can make a reference to the occasion. This will help you also to establish yourself as a speaker who is more observant.
“Fellow toastmasters and guests, six months ago when we started this club – we had just 7 members in the hall. Look around and see the number of people we have today. That is the power of belief, that is the power of team work… that is the power of leadership. You have come a long way in the last 6 months”
(Also read: How to select a speech topic?)
1) Arouse suspense or curiosity
2) Make a startling statement
3) Tell a story (Read: Story Telling manual speeches)
4) Ask a rhetorical question
5) Begin with a quotation
6) Reference the occasion
This is the summary of the workshop that I did for Medleys Toastmasters Club Chennai, during one of their milestone meetings in 2012.