Other than WOW-ing your audience, introductions should also preview your speech and establish your credibility, as explained here in the first installment of this series.
Now, imagine starting your speech with the following WOW Statement:
What is the speech about? Mental Health? Death? Unemployment? It’s actually about life under quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the introduction did not make the topic clear, the audience may find the anecdote confusing. Even if you were to explain your topic later, the impact would have been diluted, and you would have lost precious time.
Reveal Topic & Preview Speech
Previewing your speech is a method Aristotle, the father of western philosophy, recognized in his “Triptych” formula for rhetoric. In the modern world, this formula has been coined as the “Triple Tell ’em” method. Firstly, tell ‘em what you are going to tell ‘em. Secondly, tell ‘em. Thirdly, tell ‘em what you just told ‘em. It’s simple but EFFECTIVE.
This formula creates a good narrative flow that reminds the audience (constantly) of the points you are going to make, are making, or have made. Speeches are not like articles which you can reread, highlight or annotate. Ideas explained orally need to be repeated to create emphasis and encourage retention. The trick here is to do it subtly so you don’t sound repetitive or dull.
After the WOW Statement, you should reveal your topic and give a preview of your speech, i.e., a summary of your main ideas. Previewing your speech helps prep your listeners to the points you are going to make and allows them to take note of each idea as you transition. This preview will help the audience retain your content as they would be able to summarise and repeat your speech easily. If the audience forgets everything else in your speech, these are the handful of sentences they should remember. You may also reveal the purpose of your speech to give the audience a heads-up of what you hope they will be able to take away.
Speech previews should be creative yet seamless. Take the above WOW Statement as an example,
I remember waking up with purpose, going to work and feeling fulfilled. I remember having dinners with friends and weekend brunches with family. I remember the joy of running outdoors, heart-pumping and adrenaline spiking. Now everything has changed. I just stay at home, feeling like the walls of my apartment are closing in on me. I am demotivated and exhausted all the time. I worry about my expenses, my friends, and my family. I find myself having more and more panic attacks, while I think about my new reality.
You can introduce your topic and preview your speech like this:
From the above, it is clear that the speech’s theme is about managing mental health under quarantine, and its main ideas are body care, connecting with others, and disconnecting from online content.
While the above preview is clear and concise, it may come off as mechanical or cold, considering the anecdote chosen. Instead, speech previews could be more subtle and seamless:
Neither methods are wrong, just different. The first would be great for informative speeches that have the objective of being clear and concise, while the second would be better for personal speeches that aim to motivate or inspire.
After the reveal and preview, you can also add the purpose of your speech. For example,
At the end of this speech, I hope that you are able to incorporate these steps within your daily routine to make life under quarantine not just bearable, but enjoyable!