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People usually have to listen, whatever the beginning is like: but there is a great deal of difference between a listening which stops just short of fingers in the ears, and a listening which is eager and willing. It is with this difference that we are concerned. We want people to enjoy listening to us, not to endure it. To ensure this we must start well.

First and last impressions are important. We are apt to make up our minds about people on a first impression, though we may change our opinion later, and we carry away with us, and remember for sometime, our last impression of them. The beginning of a speech, then, requires special consideration, for it sets the tone for what is to follow. it is difficult to cancel the bad impression made by a poor start to a speech and many speakers never manage to do so. The aim of the beginning is to make the audience feel that what is to follow is going to be good, going to be memorable. It is, if you like, the attractive cover which lures one into buying the contents.

The last thing the speaker should do is to begin by undermining the confidence of the audience in his ability to address them. One would have thought this so obvious that no one in his senses would do so, yet time and again we hear speakers apologizing for their very existence. What should we think of a surgeon who confessed that he was not really sure where the trouble lay but thought he could probably fish something out anyhow ? Let us look for a moment at some of these opening remarks:

(a) Ladies and gentlemen, I know you don't want to hear from me ...

(b) You know, this kind of thing is not in my line at all ...

(c) I'm afraid I'm not much of a speaker ...

(d) When I was asked to speak tonight, I told them I was no orator ...

 

We do not need to list any more of these inane remarks. If a speaker is no good, the audience will very quickly find that out for themselves; why should he save them the trouble ?

 

The opening of a speech should, of course, do more than merely lull the audience into a state of false security. It should, if possible, arouse immediate interest and, if only for this reason, it should get off to a crisp, economical start, and not to lose its effectiveness by being wrapped in verbal wadding.

 

Some speakers begin by thanking the audience for listening to them. This, though courteous and right, is out of place at the beginning of a speech. it is not even logical for they have not earned the right to be thanked until they have heard the speaker through to the end and then, goodness knows, in the case of some speakers they deserve all the gratitude they get.

 

Every speech is a series of climaxes leading, as in a stage drama, to a grand climax or end. And unity is a necessary ingredient of speech and play alike. No dramatist could afford to have one or more scenes in his play different from the rest, that is, seeming not to belong to the same play, but to have been put in by mistake from some other source.

 

Before you make a speech you will, of course, plan it carefully. The best way to do this is to sit back and think round the subject in a general way first. Ideas will come at you from al sides. Don't worry about sorting them out; just let them rattle around for a while. Then, when they have settled themselves to some extent, get a piece of paper and a pencil, and write down in precis form, the dominant ideas only. Don't bother with trivialities. Jot them all down with a couple of blank lines between each, to avoid confusion.

 

The ending of a speech is both an ending and summing up. Merely to say "Thank you for listening; that is all I have to say," would not do at all. The ending, like the beginning, must be memorable. It must be the last blow of the hammer on the nail you have been banging in throughout the speech. When you have said it, the audience should feel the force of it. Do plan this with special care. It is heartbreaking to hear a man make a good speech and then spoil it with a weak and ineffectual ending. Always try to keep your audience wondering to some extent what is coming next. A little mild mystery is a great help.

From paragraph 1 :
  1.

(a) What will most listeners look forward to a speech ?

(b) How does one ensure that the listeners will enjoy their speech ?

   

From paragraph 2 :

  2.

Give two reasons why the beginning of a speech requires special consideration.

    From paragraph 3 :
  3.

(a) What does the writer mean by the expression "inane remarks' ?

(b) What effect will be created if the speaker begins with such inane remarks ?

    From paragraph 6 :
  4.

Why shouldn't a speaker begin by thanking the audience for listening to him ?

    From paragraph 9 :
  5.

(a) How should one end one's speech ?

(b) What type of preparations should he have for the ending ?

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Answers
 

1.

(a) They look forward to an enjoyable speech.

(b) The speaker should begin impressively by starting well.

 

2.

(i) The beginning of a speech sets the one for what is to follow.

(ii) It should create a good impression so that the listeners will be eager to listen further.

 

3.

(a) He means 'stupid or silly remarks'.

(b) The listeners will have a bad impression of the speaker.

 

4.

It is out of place at the beginning of a speech.

 

5.

(a) He should end the speech with a brief summing up besides thanking the audience for listening.

(b) The ending should be a brief summing up that is memorable, with the final push of driving home what you want to tell the audience.

 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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