Public Speaking Tip: Introductions

Ever struggle with getting your apologetics talks started? You’ve got some great content you’re excited to share, but maybe you aren’t sure what to say before diving into the material. How can you grab their attention and give them a reason to listen?

I’ve helped students learn how to write, refine and deliver effective speeches while teaching public speaking courses at Biola University and University of Phoenix. Here’s the simple formula that can help you write a good introduction—even if you’ve never spoken in public before. It’s easy and it works. You can use this grab their attention and guide the audience to a place where they can better focus on your message.

I call this the 5.5-Step Intro ’cause it leaves room for you to ramble a bit in the beginning if you need to, but still gives you a great road map to follow as you intentionally craft your real introductory material–even if you’ve got to keep it brief.

Here’s a short talk I did for young adults at Bridgeway Christian Church on the importance of defending the faith. It’s not perfect, but let me just use this as an illustration. Listen to how I open up this basic talk:

Step 0.5: The Half-Step

After someone introduces you and you get up to speak, you might feel the need to make some personal remarks or thank the event organizers publicly. A lot of speech teachers hate this, but I think it’s OK as long as it’s brief. You hear me do this for a few seconds in this particular talk.

Step 1: Grab their Attention

Open up with a story, a statistic, a question, or something else to grab their attention. For example, “Anyone here ever had to defend an idea that you believed in? How many of you have had questions about what you believe and looked for answers to see if what you believed was right?” Get people going, “Yeah, that’s me. What’s this about?”

Step 2: Make it Relevant

Tell them how this topic affects them. For example, “If that’s you…you’ve already been involved—at l east on some level—in something called apologetics.” Get them saying, “I gotta hear this. He’s talking about something that affects me.”

Step 3: Establish your Credibility

Share a fact or something from your life that lets the audience know you’ve got some level of experience or expertise with the topic. For example, “While I was in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University…” Ideally, they’re thinking, “I want to know what this guy knows.” Even something like, “I’ve really been looking into this over the past few weeks…” can work, too.

Step 4: Reveal your Topic

Be clear and direct: “Tonight’s lesson is called ‘Don’t Be Sorry: What Apologetics is and Why it Matters to You.'” This should seal the deal in their minds: “Yes. I’m curious about this and I want to hear this info.”

Step 5: Preview your Talk

Tell them where you’re going in chronological order. For example, “First, we’re going to define this weird word, apologetics. Then, we’ll look at three reasons to engage in it and three ways it can actually help you. Finally, we’ll break into some discussion groups and talk about making this stuff super-practical in our lives.”

Stick to this and your audience will feel like you know what you’re doing and where you’re taking them. They’ll think, “Great. I know what to expect. I’m comfortable with this. Let’s go.”

This isn’t the only way to do it, but I’ve used this kind of introduction for many years and it’s really helped me in putting together my talks. Hope it helps you. How do you like to begin your talks? Feel free to drop a comment below.

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2 Responses to “Public Speaking Tip: Introductions”

  1. Tom Gilson March 12, 2011 3:54 AM
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    While you’re on the topic of tips for public speaking, you might also look at my first-ever published article (from a previous life, as it were): “Loud and Clear: Microphone Techniques for Public Speaking,” from The Toastmaster in 1994. It’s a pdf file.

    • Mikel March 12, 2011 9:01 AM
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      Pretty cool that you got published writing this. Thanks, Tom!