The Perfect Introduction

When crafting an Oratory piece, one of the most critical (if not the most critical) element is the introduction. It is important for several reasons. Primarily, the introduction is the first impression a judge and audience obtains of a speaker. Make a poor one and the audience is hard to capture back. A competitor’s strength can been seen within the first thirty seconds of their speech. The introduction allows the audience to get a glimpse of how well a speaker transitions and how precisely they can time key elements. Also, it establishes everything for the rest of the speech. The tone and outline/direction of the intro is what guides an audience and judge for the remainder of the time. Fail to do this well, and the audience will be confused. This will adversely affect the outcome of the round.

Now that the importance of the introduction has been stated, it is also important to note that the effective nuances of the introduction can work if they are built on an effective foundation. The backbone of an introduction is pretty simple. It consists of two parts: the attention getting devise (AGD) and the thesis. First, the AGD is the part of the introduction that takes place from the first sentence of the speech through the transition to the thesis. There is so much freedom the AGD offers (more later). The second component of the introduction is the thesis. This is critical because this is the first time the audience will be informed of what the speaker will cover during the next 8-9 minutes. If the thesis does not coincide with what eventually is said, major points will be lost for poor organization and writing.

In the next few paragraphs, an outline of possible AGDs and what the thesis should consist of will be detailed. Although there are options, be careful to avoid taking too many risks at this point. The main goal is to set the stage for the rest of the speech--not to be so original that the audience is alienated and beyond caring for the speech.

Possible AGDs:

The Anecdote

An anecdote is when the speech begins with a story. Whether it is true or fabricated, the purpose of the anecdote is to bring a real-life scenario to the audience so they can relate to the speaker and what the speech is about. The difficult aspect of using an anecdote is making sure the story does not take too long to tell and that all the elements of the account are relative to the thesis. That can be very difficult, especially when trying to utilize the elements of humor and/or surprise. But if done well it can help with earning high ranks.

The Quote

The quote is a tricky way to start a speech because it has to be exceptional in content to be of any value. The whole purpose of the introduction is to capture the audience’s attention. An orator wants to get the audience excited about their topic. To do that with a quote, if should be rare but of rich content. For instance, let us say the topic of a speech is on the importance of service. Starting the speech off with John F. Kennedy's quote, "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," will not only be predictable, but will come across as lacking creativity and unimaginative.

The Statistic

This is the third most common introduction technique. This can be effective, but the tricky aspect of using statistics is making it tangible to the audience. In other words, an orator can spout any number out, but unless those listening understand the implications of the stats, they will simply be a random number to them. If deciding to use a statistic, be careful that it is strong, gripping, and something the audience can relate to or fear the introduction being flat and forgettable.

Lastly, it is important to recognize the necessary elements which comprise an effective thesis statement. While the AGD is used to add surprise or flare to the introduction to grab attention, the thesis is an audience's and speaker’s road-map of the speech. The thesis is where a speaker must lay out a plan, let the audience know what will be discussed, and inform the audience of what they are to be convinced--the speaker’s stance. First, make sure that the thesis clearly states the three of four points that comprise the speech. (Note: In a ten minute speech try and keep it to three points due to time.) These points should address both sides of the argument. In other words, state what the speech will be fighting for, but also address the concerns of the opposition by offering a strong rebuttal to their common argument relating to the topic at hand as one of the points. The second part of the thesis will not be separate, but woven into the points. The speech must inform the audience what will be argued for; what is it the speech is trying to persuade? Oratory is all about bringing an effective argument before others to solidify or change their opinion. If it is not made clear what is being argued for, then whatever is said during the rest of the speech will come across as a disorganized group of incoherent ramblings. Once again, this will severely hinder the chances of scoring highly.

An introduction needs to not only inform but captivate. An effective attention getting device will hook the audience. Creating a strong thesis provides listeners with the speech’s stance and abstract of the support to follow. Combine the two, and a memorable introduction can be written.