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Monday, August 10, 2009

The Opening Of The Speech: Very Critical For Success

Speaking is a great skill. Through speaking you are sharing your ideas with your audience. If you can successfully communicate then they will influenced by your ideas and their leel of influence is the parameter to measure your success as a speaker. And to have success in speaking, we need to have a good Opening.

You have now reached that long dreaded moment—you have to stand up and start speaking. What do you say? How do you get started? Remember that the primacy effect will ensure that what you say in the first few sentences will be among the best remembered parts of the talk, remember that first impressions are lasting impressions: so how are you going to get started effectively? As with everything in speaking, thought makes the problem easier. There are a variety of starting tactics, and you can select between them on the basis of your own experience, as well as the type of audience. The opening which every speaker wants to make, but few succeed in pulling off, is the dramatic start with an arresting fact, quotation, or remark. Something surprising, exciting, disturbing, or plain unusual; something which will make the audience gasp with admiration, and sit up to take notice for the rest of the talk.

Not many speakers manage this effect, though everyone seems to dream of it. If you have such a fact or idea, it is certainly worth trying, for it does have the effect of alerting the listeners, and focusing their minds on the subject of the presentation. But it is difficult to achieve just the right tone of confidence, and drama, in the first sentences. One problem is that it is often difficult to get the first few words in the right tone, volume, and steadiness. Only when the voice has warmed up, can it be relied upon to produce the right effect. It is often more sensible, particularly if you are inexperienced as a speaker, to start with the simple matters of fact that the audience need to know.

What questions will be in the audience’s minds at the beginning of the talk? To being with, simple practical matters like what is the talk about? Who are you? What are your qualifications, experience, and interests? How will it help them? Why should it interest them? What right have you to be speaking to them on this topic? These are the questions likely to be occupying the audience’s minds, and they will need an answer before they will open their minds to the information you have to give. They will not make their memories available to you until they are sure the effort will not be wasted. If you do not satisfy some of these points, the lingering doubt will corrupt the input of information, and continue to interfere with their perception of your message.

Satisfying these questions is so important that even if you do start with a successful attention jerker, you will need to indicate answers to most of these questions within the first few minutes. You may have been introduced by a chairperson, who should have covered these points. But if he or she hasn’t, try to fill in the missing details. It is undoubtedly much easier to listen to someone if you know exactly who and what they are, and what they are talking about. The easiest opening tactic is to reinforce what the chairperson said in introducing you. Extend it, fill in the gaps, but do not just repeat it. It gets you off the ground with the talk, and once you have started, it is easier to carry on talking.

The first task, then, is to establish rapport with the audience, gaining its confidence, and thereby making it prepared to give attention. To do this, explain how and why you are there, and what previous contacts you have had with this and similar organizations. It is also wise to check that you can be heard. These preparatory stages should not be allowed to take a lot of time; but briefly and clearly stated they are useful opening tactics. Thus, for example, a speaker’s first sentences might be:

I’ve been invited by Dr. XXXXXX to talk to you about the software of voice-recognition programs. I worked on this problem for nearly ten years with JCN, a company very similar to yours. I now run my own software house, and have talked to many groups like yours. Incidentally, can you hear me all right at the back? I’m going to talk for about 30 minutes on three main topics…
To ensure that these important points are not missed, construct your opening sentences from a check list, such as this. Don’t launch into an autobiography, each point needs only a single phrase, but it is useful for the audience to know these things:
  1. Who invited me here, or arranged the talk?
  2. What is the title of the talk?
  3. Have I given a presentation to this, or any similar organization before?
  4. What is my present job, or status, in which organization?
  5. Can they hear me at the back?
  6. How long am I going to talk for?
  7. What are the main sections in my talk?
If you draft simple answers to these questions, and mention them in the first minute of your talk, you will help to ensure that the audience is content to listen to you.