Introductions and Conclusions
The Most Important Parts of the Speech
While the introductions and conclusions may only last for a minute or two, these elements are by far the most important parts of your speech. Your introduction is your first impression, and it sets the audience's view about whether the speech will be interesting, relevant, smart, and so on. The conclusion shapes the audience's memory of the speech. If you get a laugh, they will probably think it was funny. If you make a great insight, they will remember it as insightful. Nail the introduction and conclusion and your speech will be on its way to greatness.
Great Introductions are Interesting
There is no one way to create a great introduction, but if there is one common trait among effective introductions, it's that they are interesting. You may have a joke, quote, fact, story--there are a lot of options--but make sure your introduction starts off interesting.
In business settings, it's important to include the agenda of the speech in the introduction. Be succinct and simple so that everyone can easily know what you are going to cover. Make sure everyone has similar expectations and set the vibe you want to create in the first 30 seconds. It's also effective to use the old fashioned approach of: Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; and then tell them what you told them. To do this, you need to start with a brief summary.
Conclusions - Famous Last Words
Conclusions are a great opportunity to summarize key points of your speech. Let your audience know, out of all the things you talked about, what you want them to remember, and if relevant, what actions they should take with the information. Some of the most effective conclusions end with a story that ties together the whole speech and leaves people thinking about what you said. A good way to get some ideas for conclusions (and introductions) is to look at examples. Here are some websites with a good library of speeches and we've included a few examples below.
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/ - Site with Top 100 American Speeches
http://www.historychannel.com/broadband/home/ - Speeches (some with video)
(John F. Kennedy)
|"We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom -- symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning -- signifying renewal, as well as change."||"With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."|
|I Have a Dream
(Martin Luther King)
|"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation."||"...will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
|"We Shall Overcome"
|"I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in that cause."||"Above the pyramid on the great seal of the United States it says in Latin: "God has favored our undertaking." God will not favor everything that we do. It is rather our duty to divine His will."
" But I cannot help believing that He truly understands and that He really favors the undertaking that we begin here tonight."