Saturday, August 2, 2008

Get a running start

The Toastmasters article on 10 Biggest Public Speaking Mistakes lists “Starting with a whimper” as the very first one. They suggest that you: “give the audience a startling statistic, an interesting quote, a news headline – something powerful that will get their attention immediately.”

There is a large element of theater to picking an opening. Both storytellers and trial lawyers know the importance of a great opening. In his autobiography The Story of My Life the great lawyer Clarence Darrow stated that: ”… unless a speaker can interest his audience at once, his effort will be a failure.”

In his Story Theater blog Doug Stevenson discusses How to Open Your Speech with:
1. A provocative statement or question
2. A quote
3. A story
4. A rapport builder

In his Trial Theater blog lawyer Elliot Wilcox discusses How to Develop Powerful Case Themes. He points out that movies have taglines that make them memorable, like “With great power comes great responsibility” from Spiderman. Stating a tagline in the opening gives you a “hook” to grab the audience for the speech.

Wilcox also points out that an opening statement should be given in the present tense, so that It’s happening right now.

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