Carlin Flora, writing in Psychology Today, recounts an experiment in which people with no special training were shown 20-32 second video clips of job applicants in the initial stages of a job interview. After watching the short clips, the viewers were asked to rate the applicants on characteristics including self-assurance and likeability—important considerations in a job interview. These ratings were then compared with the findings from the trained interviewers who spent 20 minutes or more with the job applicants. The result: The 20-32 second ratings were pretty much the same as the ratings from the trained interviewers. First impressions count.1
When we stand in front of an audience, we have very little time to set the stage for a successful speech. As seen from the example above, audience members begin evaluating us immediately. What we sometimes forget since we are so focused on the words we have to say is that we are being evaluated even before we open our mouths.
Speech introductions are an essential element of an effective public speech. Introductions have four specific functions that need to be met in a very short period of time.
These first two functions of the introduction, gaining the attention of the audience and the good will of the audience, have most to do with getting the audience to want to listen to you. The other two functions of the introduction, stating the purpose of the speech and previewing the structure of the speech, have to do with helping the audience listen to you. Let’s take a look at each of these functions.