In any speech opening, people are going to decide whether to play with their iPhone or listen to you. In the first thirty to sixty seconds of any social interactions, people make judgement decisions. Why should listening or not listening to your speech be any different?
The opening of your speech has to grab the audience. It has to make them want to invest their time in listening to your speech. You do not want to start your speech with a boring beginning. There are many techniques you can use to grab people’s attention.
You can ask a thought-provoking question. You can give a challenging statement or facts. You can hold a prop that will catch people’s attention. You can begin with a powerful personal story. The list is only limited by your imagination.
You need to look at the first sixty seconds of your speech as the hook which you then reel in the audience.
As you close your speech, your audience is going to be thinking two questions. First, is the speaker really coming to the end of their speech? Secondly, now what does the speaker want me to do with all of this information?
Many audiences have listened to speakers who don’t quite know how to end their speech. Some dawdle towards to their ending. Others end their speech on a dead stop leaving audiences in a lurch. The best way is to simply announce by saying, “in conclusion… or to summarize…” Or you can briefly restated your main points by saying, “let me finish by restating two main ideas to take away…” When the audience knows the end is near, they generally pay more attention.
The last few minutes of your speech or presentation is what your audience is going to remember about your material and you. This is where your parting thought, challenge or action answers the second question.
In most openings, speakers are trying to accomplish two goals.
The first goal is to state what is the main purpose of the speech. Depending on the length of your presentation, you may have several main points to this purpose. In your opening, a very concise explanation of your purpose is needed. As an extra benefit, this explanation of your purpose allows you to give a blueprint of your speech to your audience. This allows your audience to know where they are starting and where they will end.
When you explain your main purpose, this leads into your second goal. Your audience has to know that there is something of value in your speech in order for them to listen. No value means no need to pay attention. Every audience wants to know that when they leave they have gained something of value. Every speech has something of value, it is our job as speakers to let our audience know what it is.