Thursday, August 27, 2015

Public Speaking- Creating your Opening Lines

            Novelists understand the importance of those mind-catching first words that tantalize readers and draw them into their stories, but what about when you’ve been called upon to give a speech? Yes, I’m an author and I hope the opening lines of my novels draw readers into turning the page, but today I’d like to discuss creating opening lines for speech presentations.
            I think I just felt a shudder from my audience. 
            Giving a speech has been likened to the fear of death but I promise you, you will survive despite sweaty palms, nervous ticks, or the fear of fainting.  I’ve taught public speaking for over twenty years but my expertise on the topic doesn’t make me immune to the jitters.  I much prefer to be on the sidelines watching and listening rather than being in the spotlight.
            Can anyone relate?
            Like golf teachers who know how to teach golf but don’t play on the professional circuit, I teach but I’m not one of those gifted motivational speakers who fascinate their audiences with their exuberance. I can, however, deliver with confidence, a valuable message to the right audience.
            And so can you!
            I’ve worked with hundreds of students over the years who have confessed their paralyzing fears of public speaking; students who were required to take a public speaking course and saved it until the very end of their college career because of their fright.  Even shaking in their shoes, they succeeded, many passing with A’s for outstanding speeches.  
            Step-by-step preparation and practice are crucial but these are speech topics for another day. Today, I’d like to address readers whose profession or interests call for public speaking.  Your boss may expect you to deliver a speech or lead a workshop.  As an author, your continued success might hinge on giving book talks to readers or presenting at a conference.  You’ve planned your presentation, you know your material and you’re well acquainted with your expected audience. How do you begin when everyone is staring at you?
            A host might introduce you, saving you from giving your credentials. If not, avoid beginning with, “Good morning, my name is _______ and I’ve been asked to talk to you about…”  An opening statement like this is the number one, dull opening—important information, but not for an opening line.
             First, gain your audience’s attention with a well prepared starter.  Here are some suggestions:
                        -Ask your audience an intriguing question, rhetorical or overt.
                        - Cite a quotation that connects to your topic.
                        -Tell a story that leads into your subject.
                        -Give a surprising statistic.
                        -Start with a visual aid
                        -If you’re naturally funny, use humor  that leads to your subject.  
                          (Don’t try this if it doesn’t fit your personality).
                        -Surprise or intrigue your audience with a provocative statement.
                        -Arouse curiosity

            I wish I had time and space to elaborate more on each of the above but I think you get the idea.
            Whatever opening statement you choose, it should relate to your topic. Then follow by introducing yourself, if you haven’t been introduced by a host.
            Like the opening line of a good book, you want to capture your audience’s attention immediately.  Whether you want to inform, persuade, or entertain your listeners, a well planned opening perks up the ears of your audience to what you have to offer.  It will be up to you and your solid planning to move on to the topic at hand. Fears will ease once those prepared first lines have been spoken and your audience is tuned in. 
            I also suggest that you pay closer attention to television personalities, talk show hosts, even advertisements to note how they gain your attention immediately. 
            Have fun with the planning.
            I know you can do it!

            Please take the time to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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