What Harry Potter Can Teach You About Creating A Speech Introduction

by drjim on November 8, 2011

It Doesn't Take Magic To Create A Great Opening For Your Next Speech

It Doesn’t Take Magic To Create A Great Opening For Your Next Speech

When you go to see a movie, what’s the first thing that you always see? The answer is, of course, trailers! I must confess that there have been movies that I’ve gone to in the past in which the trailers were the best part of the whole movie viewing experience! What’s interesting about these trailers is that they have been designed with one thing in mind: to get you to come back and see the movie that they are advertising. Maybe we can learn something from trailers that we can use in our next speech.

Why The Opening Of Your Speech Is So Very Important

Let’s spend a moment thinking about what runs through your mind when you go to see a movie. You sit down in your seat, you’ve got your tub of popcorn, your gigantic cup of soda and you’re in the mood to be entertained.

All of the ads and trailers get over and then the main feature starts. How long does it take you to figure out if you are going to enjoy watching this movie? How long is it before you might start thinking that the US$30 that you’ve spent to be sitting in this seat at this time was a big mistake? I’m willing to bet that this evaluation happens in less than a minute. Maybe even in less than 30 seconds.

Clearly, how a movie starts is a critical part of determining whether or not we’re going to end up enjoying it. Sure, sure – sometimes a movie can start out badly and pull out a save in the end. However, these are rare occurrences – the opening pretty much determines what we’re going to think about the whole movie.

Although you and I are not in the movie making business, we do spend our time making and delivering speeches. If you’re willing to come a long with me for just a moment or two, then I’d like to propose that a speech is very much like a movie. We know about the importance of public speaking and it’s up to us to show our audience how important what we have to say is. We’ve got an audience and we’d like to capture their attention (no matter how good their listening skills are) and hold it throughout our entire speech. Hmm, I wonder just how we can go about doing this…

How To Build A Speech Opening That’s Like A Movie Trailer

Maybe we should take an easier route here. Instead of trying to worry about building our entire speech like a movie, let’s just focus for now on building our speech’s opening like a movie trailer.

What is the purpose of a movie trailer? It’s a quick 1-2 minute video presentation that is designed to get us interested enough in an upcoming movie that we’ll come back to the movie theater and pay to see it. Hmm, this attention grabbing thing sounds exactly like what we try to do when we are starting our speech.

How does a movie trailer work its magic on us? It’s actually pretty simple. A movie trailer has to immediately grab our attention. No matter if it’s an explosion, a gunshot, or a face slap, it has very little time so it has to move quickly.

The next thing that has to happen in a movie trailer is that we need to be introduced to the characters. This needs to happen fast and we need to understand who they are and what they are trying to do. They may be an archeologist, a superhero, a wizard, it doesn’t matter – the background is being set up. This also needs to be done quickly.

A movie trailer only has time to accomplish one more thing. The people that we’ve just been introduced to now have to be put into some sort of challenging situation that there appears to be no way for them to get out of. This is the “hook” that will make us come back to the movie theater in order to find out how things turn out.

When you are creating the opening for your next speech, you are going to want to do the same set of steps. You have very little time in which to capture your audience’s attention and so you’re going to have move quickly. The first words out of your mouth are going to have to grab their attention. You’re going to have to follow this up with a description of the situation that you’ll be talking about and the people who will be involved. Finally, you’ll need to create challenging situation to end your introduction. This challenge is what’s going to cause your audience to remain sitting in their seats and listening to your entire speech.

What All Of This Means For You

The first few words that tumble out of your mouth during your next speech set the stage for the rest of the speech that is to follow. One of the benefits of public speaking is that you control what you say and so you can create a powerful introduction for your next speech. Your speech’s introduction is a critical part of making the entire speech effective.

In order to design a speech opening that will both grab and hold your audience’s attention, take a look at how movie trailers do it. They always open with a bang – they grab your attention. Next, they introduce the characters and provide some background info, and finally they place them in some sort of situation that appears to be difficult / impossible to get out of. This is exactly what you need to do in your speech’s opening in order to hook your audience. Forget all of those presentation tips – the opening of your speech is where it’s at.

The opening of your speech is only one part of the total speech. However, if you get this part correct, then the rest of the speech will be much easier to do correctly. Take the time to craft a great “trailer” for your next speech and your audience will end up giving you a great review!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How long do you think your next speech’s opening should be?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Babe Ruth was great at baseball. Michael Jordan was fantastic at basketball. Joe Namath was a master of the game of U.S. football. As public speakers we’d like to be known as being the best at what we do. All of these sports stars had talents that made them better than everyone else. Guess what – there’s a speaking skill that can make you better than every other speaker out there!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michele Price (@prosperitygal) November 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm

AMEN, how cool an analogy, the movie trailer. Love to hear how you have done that at events. What was your opening? Did it resonate with entire audience? Do you tweak it when you see some not respond? or Do you recognize you will not stimulate everyone’s brain juices?

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Dr. Jim Anderson November 11, 2011 at 10:02 am

Michele: Thanks! Lately I’ve fallen in love with the idea of turning a speech into a mystery novel. This means that in the opening I introduce the characters and present the impossible situation. The rest of the speech deals with showing how the characters deal with the situation and, eventually, reach a happy conclusion. Not easy, but it can pay off big time!

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