How will you begin your speech? Would you abruptly begin like this "I, uh, think dogs should be shot. I mean pit bulls should be shot and I have three reasons for this?" Hopefully not. This would be awkward and I doubt your audience would be very interested. That is why speakers use introductions. A good introduction does just that--it introduces you, the speaker, and your topic to the audience in an interesting manner. Good introductions include:

1. An attention getter--something to gain the audience’s attention.

2. The thesis of the speech.

3. The reason you are interested and/or have expertise in the topic.

4. How the topic relates to experiences that the audience has had.

Look at the introduction below that a speaker used for his persuasive speech against the sale of arms to Indonesia. Each of the four elements of an introduction is noted in ( )’s.


Example Outline of an Introduction

I. Introduction

A. (Attention getter) 350 miles off Australia lies blood stained East Timor.

B. (The speaker’s interest/expertise) My study of the situation

C. (The thesis:) I believe it is time for the United States to cut off all arms sales to Indonesia.

D. (How the topic relates to the audience’s experiences:) If assistance to the flooded Midwest and the movie "Killing Fields" concerned you, murdering the equivalent of 330 Whitman Colleges should too.

The Introduction as delivered

350 miles off the coast of Australia lies East Timor, a nation whose shores are stained with the blood of its people. For in 1976, the 200th year of American freedom, Indonesia, a neighboring country invaded East Timor, ending their independence and locking them into the chains of suppression. Ironically, United States arms sales to Indonesia form the chains for they enforce the invading troops presence. As a political science major I have spent many hours of questioning, researching, and I have found only troubling answers. I believe it is time for the United States to cut off all arms sales to Indonesia. I hope you will too. East Timor may seem remote but if the Midwest flooding heightened your concern and if the movie "The Killing Fields" made you care about the Cambodian people, I hope the starvation and outright murdering of an entire people the size of 330 Whitman Colleges will make you not only care but also angry enough to demand action.

Make sure your introduction neatly and cohesively gains your attention, states the thesis, states the speaker’s involvement in the topic, and relates to the audience’s experiences as this intro does.


A good conclusion:

1. Ties the speech together.

2. Builds to a higher point.

3. Gives a sense that the speech is over.

A good conclusion ties the speech together. Your conclusion should lightly review your main points--but I strongly suggest that you NOT do a summary of your speech. Instead of repeating the details of each of your three points, review the main ideas that led you to support your thesis. For example, after speaking on three points that we are spending too much and that people refuse to be more prudent, you could say, "We are facing a crisis in America. We are unwilling to sacrifice for the future and as a result we have none."

Use your light review to build to a higher point. Your conclusion should examine some underlying assumption of your thesis. If you have discussed drug testing’s invasion of privacy in your speech, you might want to discuss the general phenomenon of greater governmental and business intrusion into people’s private lives. For example, "Drug testing represents merely one of the many ways that businesses are intruding on our personal lives. Secret video cameras, the passing of confidential information, and even private detectives are part of a broader phenomenon of intrusion. We need to stop this attack on our personal lives." SO, BUILD TO A HIGHER POINT--DEVELOP AN IMPORTANT THEME IN YOUR SPEECH. This theme should show us the "news" you have presented--it should tell us what new information we have learned and how it is useful to us.

Give your speech a sense of closure. Your speech should give a feeling that your speech is over. The key way way to do this is to use your voice inflection to give a sense that you are finished. Another good way to accomplish this is to refer back to your attention getter or an important part of the introduction. Examine the following introduction and conclusion. The elements of a good conclusion are noted in parentheses.


I. Introduction

A. Shawna Mivelzke has cancer

B. My neighborhood creek

C. It is the polluter’s responsibility to clean up their wastes.

D. 355 hours next to toxic site; Gas Works, Kent landfill, Seattle/Tacoma EPA top priority


Shawna Mivelzke has cancer. Her neighbor has a liver disease. In fact, 40% of the people in Shawna’s neighborhood have a fatal disease. What’s the reason? A toxic waste site. Toxic waste sites litter the entire nation and threaten other neighborhoods as well. In fact, in my own neighborhood, a creek that runs in backyards of many homes is filled with chemicals and sludge from a cement factory. That is why I feel that it is the polluter’s responsibility to clean up their wastes. You should feel the same way. Did you know that, on average, you will spend over 355 hours a year next to a toxic waste site? If that doesn’t hit home--consider Gas Works Park, the Kent Landfill site, and that both of the bays in Seattle and Tacoma are E.P.A. top priority cleanup sites.


V. Conclusion

A. (Tie the speech together) Threat and industry failure mean US should make polluters act

B. (Build to a higher point) Key to overall environmental responsibility

C. (Give the speech closure) If responsible, Shawna and my neighborhood safer


Because toxic waste sites threaten the health of the country and because industry can but won’t stop this threat, the United States should make polluters clean up their mess. The toxic waste issue represents one way in which we can protect our precious environment. Every day thousands of tons of waste are dumped, thousands of rivers are polluted, the very air we breathe is threatened. If polluters were forced to be responsible, neighborhoods like Shawna’s and mine would be much safer.

So, do you know how to begin and conclude a speech? Building and satisfying your audience’s interest is a fundamental element of a speech. Building interest is the difference between an audience that thinks your speech is important and an audience that wishes the whole thing would not even start.