Tips for Getting the Bookends of Your Speech Just Right

Every time you step up to a dais:

• one-third of your audience views you favorably;
• one-third of your audience finds you unfavorable; and
• one-third of your audience is quickly waiting to make up their minds by hearing your first few sentences

When you consider this, 2/3 of your audience is predisposed to not listen to you. It’s your job, therefore, to win over your audience in each and every speech you give, starting with the very first words that come out of your mouth.
If you don’t start your speech with something that captures their attention, you’re going to lose them immediately. And if you don’t close with something equally compelling—an inspiring call to action that literally propels people out of their seats—you’ve basically wasted your time and theirs.
What’s Going to Be Your First Impression? It’ll Determine How Your Presentation Goes…
People internalize the first things they hear, not what immediately follows. They perceive information presented early in a presentation as more valuable and meaningful than what comes next. So make your opening words count. Whatever you want to glue into the minds of your audience, say it first. Ask yourself, “If this were the only thing I would leave them with, what would it be and why should they care?” And start there. Some additional suggestions for getting a great start:

• Before you speak, set the tone. Look confident.
• Ditch the intro pleasantries – your audience isn’t interested.
• Try something different. Startle them. Surprise them. Give them something to ponder.

The End is Only the Beginning
Movies start and end with a bang. Commercials begin with a hook and leave you with a price. Concerts open and close with a band’s best songs. The end is just as important as the beginning. The close is your call to action, your chance to succinctly address the question as to why exactly it was worth everyone’s time to listen to your speech. Here are some tips to consider when you’re closing out your speech or presentation:

• Summarize what you’ve previously said and interact with your audience if possible.
• Get people’s attention by posing statements/questions with accompanied silence that force people to stop and wonder what you’re going to do next.
• Bring your audience full circle. If you’ve opened with an unusual date or used a visual, try referencing your opening gambit in the close.

Open and close. First and last. All great communicators make lasting impressions by devoting a great deal of their attention to getting the bookends of their speeches just right.

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