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INTRODUCING A SPEECH
There are several ways in which a speech may be aptly and felicitously introduced with a view to realizing the aims stated in the preceding chapter. In choosing the type of introduction for a given address the speaker should, in general, be governed by one or more of the following factors: the time at his disposal, his own temperament, the kind of audience addressed, the topic of discussion, the attitude of the audience toward the speaker and subject, and the manner in which he intends to develop his theme. Some of these conditions require special consideration, but we shall first discuss the methods which apply under ordinary circumstances.
A. COLLECTING ONE'S FORCES
After the customary salutation of the presiding officer, the speaker will do well to collect his forces in silence until the room is quiet enough to permit him to be heard distinctly. This will obviate two faults of common occurrence. In the first place, this moment or two of poising before the flight
is calculated to prevent the speaker from uttering hastily phrased sentences, in a breathless manner. During the first instant of facing an audience, only an experienced speaker has full command of his language and feels physically at ease. Most persons are momentarily unsteadied by the situation; the breathing is not under control and the heart action is irregular. In this condition one is apt to garble or express awkwardly even a carefully planned opening. A brief pause will remedy this fault. In the second place, it will prevent the speaker from wasting his introductory remarks in the subsiding murmur of the audience. The loss of the opening words tends to create a bad impression on the audience, and is further unfortunate in that these words are usually essential to the full understanding or appreciation of that which follows. The speaker, then, derives distinct advantages by taking time to look over his audience deliberately while getting his bearings and awaiting silence.
B. AVOIDING THE THREADBARE APOLOGY
With the actual beginning of the address there is apt to come a temptation to follow a widespread and hackneyed convention-to apologize. As was suggested in the first chapter, some men begin to organize their apology as soon as they consent to appear in public. In not a few instances,
to be sure, it is the most apt and convincing feature of their entire performance; but that is a disgrace to the speaker rather than a tribute to the apology. There may, of course, be a real reason for asking the indulgence of the audience on account of hoarseness, illness, lateness or some other unavoidable shortcoming. The hoary custom of craving quarter on general principles, however, is one of the lamest means of getting under way. It does not arrest attention; it does not arouse interest; it does not tend to secure for the speaker a favorable attitude on the part of the audience; and it certainly has no bearing on his subject-matter. What may, then, be used to best advantage at the outset?
C. EFFECTIVE OPENINGS
I. Reference to Attendant Circumstances
If the circumstances attending the speaker's presence on the platform are of especial interest or significance, he may fitly open with comments on the fact. Suppose, for example, the invitation to speak had reached him at a distance and when he was occupied with thoughts very different from those of the present moment; this might lead to a very interesting contrast. Or, if recently he had spoken on a similar subject to a very different kind of audience, he might use this as the
basis of an interesting comment on the various groups who are working and thinking in different ways toward the same ends. Again, if the speaker has previously addressed the same body, he might refer to his pleasure on that occasion, or comment on the changes which have since occurred, affecting the lives of those present. It is to be carefully noted that in using these, or any of the following openings, it is desirable to make the initial remarks lead into the theme, just as the introductory bars of a good piece of music merge into the opening of the melody proper.
II. Complimentary Opening
A second method of opening is by expressing pleasure in the present opportunity, and deftly complimenting the audience on the work they are doing for the cause under consideration, or the interest which they have shown in the subject of discussion. This complimentary opening should be used, however, with discretion. Too often it is employed without reasonable warrant, and even the most unpretentious audience has a quick composite sense for the detection of flattery, insincere compliment, or anything whatever that is bogus. Probably many of my readers have heard of the prominent politician who failed lamentably in an effort to curry favor with an uneducated New York audience by speaking in
his shirt-sleeves. If a compliment is deserved by the listeners and is sincerely intended by the speaker, it constitutes a felicitous beginning. Under such circumstances it helps to create a pleasant relationship between speaker and audience. The bogus compliment, on the contrary, is apt to recoil, greatly to the speaker's disadvantage.
III. Narrative-Descriptive Opening
Another excellent means of opening is a brief narration or description. A really good anecdote or a striking description of some significant object or scene is one of the surest bids for attention and interest. There is no doubt that audiences like stories especially. They liked them long before that famous Speaker made such effective use of the parables, and it is safe to say that they will always respond to a lively tale.
In using the descriptive or narrative form of opening, two things are to be observed: first, the material should be fresh and vivid, in idea, wording, and manner of delivery; second, the main point involved in the narration or word-picture should have an unmistakable significance with reference to the topic of the discussion. The speaker can readily construct his own descriptions to fit his subject. For example, if he were to speak