Exploring Public Speaking: The Free Dalton State College Public Speaking Textbook, 4th EditionChapter 8: Introductions and Conclusions
Chapter 8: Introductions and Conclusions

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, the student will be able to:

Recognize the functions of introductions and conclusions;Identify the primary elements of a speech introduction;Identify the primary elements of a speech conclusion;Construct introductions and conclusions.

You are watching: The conclusion should be about _______ of the length of the entire speech.

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8.1 – General Guidelines for Introductions and Conclusions

8.2 – Structuring the Introduction

8.3 - Examples of Introductions

8.4 – Structuring the Conclusion

8.5 – Examples of Conclusions

8.1 – General Guidelines for Introductions and Conclusions

Can you imagine how strange a speech would sound without an introduction? Or how jarring it would be if, after making a point, a speaker just walked away from the lectern and sat down? You would most likely be pretty confused, and the takeaway from that speech—even if the content was really good—would likely be, “I was confused” or “That was a weird speech.”

This is just one of the reasons all speeches need introductions and conclusions. Introductions and conclusions serve to frame the speech and give it a clearly defined beginning and end. They help the audience to see what is to come in the speech, and then let them mentally prepare for the end. In doing this, introductions and conclusions provide a “preview/review” of your speech as a means to reiterate or re-emphasize to your audience what you are talking about.

If you remember back to Chapter 2, we talked about “planned redundancy” as a strategy for aiding retention and understanding of your purpose and supporting speech ideas. Since speeches are auditory and live, you need to make sure the audience remembers what you are saying. So one of the primary functions of an introduction is to preview what you will be covering in your speech, and one of the main roles of the conclusion is to review what you have covered. It may seem like you are repeating yourself and saying the same things over and over, but that repetition ensures that your audience understands and retains what you are saying.

The challenge, however, is that there is much more that a speaker must do in the introduction and conclusion than just preview or review the topic and main points. The roles that introductions and conclusions fulfill are numerous, and, when done correctly, can make your speech stronger. However, the introduction and conclusion are not the main parts of the speech; that is the body section where the bulk of your research and information will be housed. So to that end, the introduction and conclusion need to be relatively short and to the point.

The general rule is that the introduction and conclusion should each be about 10% of your total speech, leaving 80% for the body section. You can extend the introduction to 15% if there is good reason to, so 10-15% of the speech time is a good guideline for the introduction Let’s say that your informative speech has a time limit of 5-7 minutes: if we average that out to 6 minutes that gives us 360 seconds. Ten to fifteen percent of 360 is 36-54, meaning your full introduction—which includes the thesis and preview—should come in at about a minute. That isn’t to say that your speech instructor will be timing you and penalize you for hitting the 60 second mark, but rather to highlight the fact that you need to be economical with your time. An introduction or conclusion of a 6-minute speech that lasts 90 seconds is taking up 25% or your speech. leaving much less time for the body.

Consequently, there are some common errors to avoid in introductions:

rambling and meandering, not getting to the point;speaking to become comfortable;saying the specific purpose statement, especially as first words;choosing a technique that hurts credibility, such as pedantic (defining words like “love”) or a method that is not audience-centered;beginning to talk as you approach the platform or lectern; instead, it is preferable to reach your destination, pause, smile, and then begin;reading your introduction from your notes; instead, it is vital to establish eye contact in the introduction, so knowing it very well is important;talking too fast; instead, let your audience get used to your voice by speaking emphatically and clearly.

As we have mentioned before, it is best to write your introduction after you have a clear sense of the body of your presentation. The challenge to introductions is that there is a lot you need to get done in that 10%-15%, and all of it is vital to establishing yourself as a knowledgeable and credible speaker.

In terms of the conclusions, be careful NOT to:

signal the end multiple times. In other words, no “multiple conclusions” or saying “As I close” more than once;rambling; if you signal the end, end;talking as you leave the platform or lecternindicating with facial expression or body language that you were not happy with the speech.

In the following sections, we will discuss specifically what you should include in the introduction and conclusion, and offer a number of options for accomplishing each.

8.2 – Structuring the Introduction

A common concern many students have as the date of their first major speech approaches is “I don’t know how I should start my speech.” What they are really saying is they aren’t sure what words will be memorable, attention-capturing, and clever enough to get their audience interested or, on a more basic level, sound good. This is a problem most speakers have, since the first words you say, in many ways, set the tone for the rest of your speech. There may not be any one “best” way to start a speech, but we can provide some helpful guidelines that will make starting a speech much easier.

With that in mind, there are five basic elements that you will want to incorporate into your introduction. And while you have some leeway to structure your introduction in a way that best fits with your speech and you wouldn’t necessarily always do all of these in the order below, the following order of these five elements is fairly standard. Unless you have a specific reason to do otherwise, it is probably a pretty good order for you to use.

Element 1: Get the Audience’s Attention

The first major purpose of an introduction is to gain your audience’s attention and make them interested in what you have to say. While many audiences may be polite and not talk while you’re speaking, actually getting them to listen to what you are saying is a completely different challenge. Let’s face it—we’ve all tuned someone out at some point because we weren’t interested in what they had to say. If you do not get the audience’s attention at the outset, it will only become more difficult to do so as you continue speaking.

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That’s why every speech should start with an attention getter, or some sort of statement or question that piques the audience’s interest in what you have to say at the very start of a speech. Sometime these are called “grabbers.” The first words out of your mouth should be something that will perk up the audience’s ears. Starting a speech with “Hey everybody. I’m going to talk to you today about soccer” already sounds boring and has not tried to engage the individuals in the audience who don’t care about soccer. Once your audience has deemed your speech to be boring, trying to inform, persuade, or entertain them becomes exponentially more difficult. So let’s briefly discuss what you can do to capture your audience’s attention from the onset.