INTRODUCTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
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While the introductions and conclusions may only last for a minute or two, these elements are by far the most important parts of your speech. Your introduction is your first impression, and it sets the audience's view about whether the speech will be interesting, relevant, smart, and so on. The conclusion shapes the audience's memory of the speech. If you get a laugh, they will probably think it was funny. If you make a great insight, they will remember it as insightful. Nail the introduction and conclusion and your speech will be on its way to greatness.
For some reason a lot of speakers don't put very much thought or effort into the way they begin and end their speeches. The introductions and conclusions to your speeches are as important as any other parts, though. They may be more important, in fact. Since your introduction is the first impression your audience gets of you, if the impression is good they are more likely to forgive minor weaknesses in other parts of your speech. If the impression is poor you may lose your audience before you have a chance to get to the good parts of your speech. (That's known as the "primacy effect": the tendency of first impressions to affect subsequent impressions.)
On the other hand, the conclusion is the final impression your audience gets, and if it's good they may remember you more favorably even if the rest of your speech wasn't so hot. If your conclusion is poor, though, it may be remembered so much that your audience forgets the rest of your speech. (The tendency of later impressions to affect previous impressions is known as the "recency effect.") So, it's a good idea to carefully prepare the way you begin and end your speech. Great Introductions are Interesting. There is no one way to create a great introduction, but if there is one common trait among effective introductions, it's that they are interesting. Possible Techniques To Open A Speech:
Ask a series of rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions are mentioned in your text as something to avoid because they're overdone, but when done well they can effectively arouse curiosity or build suspense. I want to emphasize that to use them well you should ask questions that really make your audience think. You should also ask a series of rhetorical questions, not just one. When you ask just one it isn't very effective because it usually doesn't give your audience much to think about, it seems abrupt, and it's too short to build suspense or arouse curiosity.
TIP: When you start a speech with rhetorical questions, ask three questions. Pause after each before asking the next, and don't answer any of them until you've asked them all.
Read from literature/Use a Famous Quote . Beginning a speech with a poem, song lyrics, or a brief section from a novel can be very intriguing for an audience, and can make the initial impression that your speech will be artistic and interesting. If you use this technique the reading should only go on for about 15 or 20 seconds and you must be sure to tell the audience the title and author of the literature.
Refer to a recent event/Tell a Story. If something happened recently that everyone's heard about, or if your audience has shared an experience recently, see if you can find a way to refer to it to lead into your speech. For instance, when students do their first speeches it's common for some to start off saying, "When I was thinking about what to give my speech on, I thought about . . ." Since everyone in the class went through the same thing, it usually works pretty well. (It only works well the first time someone does it, though. After that it sounds like you stole someone else's idea.)
Refer to the occasion. You can open the speech by talking about the reason everyone gathered. That usually doesn't work too well for class presentations, but can work very well for speeches in other situations.
Openings To Avoid. Over the years I've noticed some common ways that students begin their speeches that get the speech off to a poor start. They usually make the speaker seem unprepared to begin the speech, leading to a poor first impression. So you ought to know about them and avoid doing them. You should NEVER open a speech by saying
- The title of your speech (i.e. "New Treatments for Ulcers") A single word sentence that forecasts the topic (i.e. "Ulcers. . . .) "My name is _____." or "I'm _____ and . . ." "I'm going to talk about . . ." "My speech is on . . ." "O. K." "Uh . . ."
- or any other similar phrases.
Remember, you should ALWAYS begin with the first word of the first sentence of your speech and it should always be a complete sentence. You should also always lead up to your statement of what your speech is about.
TIP: End your speech like you begin it: looking at the audience and speaking confidently. Never start back to your seat until you've finished talking and have paused for a couple seconds. Conclusions - Famous Last Words.
Review your major ideas. A review is the same thing as a summary, and if you don't include it you're not only missing part of your conclusion, but you're also missing a chance to remind your audience of what you said. Without that reminder your speech is likely to be less effective. The review, or summary, is very much like the preview you included in the introduction to the speech because you refer to the same ideas in the same order that you referred to them in the introduction. The difference is, in the conclusion you talk more about each idea. In the introduction you said you would talk about each idea; in the conclusion you should remind us of the important ideas you said when you talked about each idea.
Leave the audience thinking. When you close your speech try to say something that will give your audience something to think about. Your closing should end your speech, but it shouldn't end your audience's involvement in your subject.
End the speech gracefully. Speeches are much more satisfying and effective if it's clear to the audience when they're over. If it seems that the speech is over and you keep talking, the audience wonders what's happening and stops thinking about your message. If the speech just ends without warning, the audience wonders what's happening and stops thinking about your message. If you end smoothly and clearly it will work much better for everyone.
Leave a good impression. In some ways this is like ending the speech gracefully, but it's much more. A well constructed conclusion makes you look like you know what you're doing, like you put some effort into your speech, and like you're in control.
Possible Techniques To Close A Speech
"Mirror" what you did in the opening. Some people refer to this as "book ending" your speech because the content of the closing is similar to the content of the opening. That doesn't mean you say the exact same thing, but if you began a humorous story you could close with another humorous story. Or, if you began by reading literature you might end by reading other literature. Book ending helps the audience to recognize the end of your speech and provides closure for them.
TIP: If you begin a speech by telling a story it can be very effective to leave the story unfinished, then come back and finish it in the closing.
Closings to Avoid. Just like there are poor ways to begin a speech there are poor ways to finish a speech. Avoid ending your speech by saying any of the following:
- "That's all."
- "I'm done."
- "Any questions?"
- "Thank you."
- Or any similar phrases
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