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.
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:
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 ...
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
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.
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.
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
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.