Your Speech Introduction: Sell Your Speech First

Speech Introductions at Toastmasters 101

How an introduction visit to a different Toastmasters meeting changed my club meeting participation forever.

Two shocking changes improved our Toastmasters meetings – you can do these too!

Do you get emails with this kind of subject line? Do you see ads with phrases like “You won’t believe what happened next!”

Yep, me too. In fact, that’s part of my paid job – to write sales copy and headlines that will encourage people to click through to look at a product. So I’m very aware of them.

Clickbait or Curiosity?

Some techniques are manipulative, I agree. The best ones aren’t manipulative – they create curiosity in the people who need this product. They scratch that itch, as it were.

What does this have to do with Toastmasters? What if you could write a title and an introduction to your speech that gets your audience excited for what you’re about to tell them?

Today on Toastmasters 101 podcast, I’m going to give you a few hints about how to make your audience respond better to your speech – and it will change your Toastmasters experience forever!

Intro

Do you want to change the world – but don’t have the skills you need? Toastmasters can help you learn how to communicate your message well – and become a leader at the same time.

This is Toastmasters 101 and I’m your host, Kim Krajci

Introduction to a New Toastmasters Club

What did I learn when I visited another club for the first time?

When I found out I could visit other clubs, I immediately picked the first Toastmasters club I’d ever heard of – it met in the office building where my mother worked. The club – then it was Firestone Toastmasters – had several advanced Toastmasters. Many of the members had been in Toastmasters for years.

I was made very welcome and discovered that not all Toastmasters meetings are alike. Yes, our structure is essentially the same – prepared speeches, Table Topics, evaluations – but this club had a flair that I genuinely enjoyed. Two people showed me potential that I hadn’t seen at my home club.

Which is not a dig at my club. They welcomed me, taught me, and encouraged my public speaking skills and leadership opportunities. But this new set of personalities and techniques inspired me.

What were they?

Introductions

I wish I could remember the name of the Toastmaster of the Day. I know he was a Distinguished Toastmaster and at that meeting, he announced he was moving to San Diego. If you know who I’m talking about, let me know. He was a peach!

It seems that at this meeting, one of the speakers had forgotten to bring an introduction for him to read.

Is that important?

Actually, yes.

When you craft your speech, you’re not done until you have written out an introduction for the Toastmaster of the Day to use in the meeting. This short – maybe 100 words – text sets up you and your speech.

Maybe you’ve noticed at the meetings that we don’t start our speeches with a “Hi, I’m Kim Krajci, I’ll be speaking to you today about how to buy tires.” We don’t need to say that because we expect the information to be presented by the Toastmaster of the Day. That’s why we have to craft that introduction text so carefully.

What are you talking about?

We are laying out the foundation of our presentation in what is said before we even take the stage. At least, that’s what we should strive to do.

I remember one Toastmaster in a contest who understood this principle clearly. In Toastmasters contests, the contestant’s name and the name of their speech is all that is announced. This toastmaster put 50 words in his title. 50 words! And yes, I know that because it was the first thing he talked about in his speech – how funny it was, but how important it was to explain what he was going to talk about. No, I don’t remember what he talked about! That may have undermined his message. I don’t even remember if he won.

But it set up the audience for his speech. That’s what your introduction should do. Imagine if the Toastmaster got up and introduced you in a drone-like, boring voice when you were presenting a humorous speech? Or worse, if the Toastmaster of the Day started joking with the audience and your speech was on a serious topic or eulogy?

Write to Create Curiosity

Writing to create curiosity or interest in your speech isn’t necessarily in your wheelhouse, so let me give you a few hints on how to craft your title, and then your introduction.

You need to know who your audience is. In Toastmasters meetings, your audience can be anything you want them to be: wedding guests for a bridal toast, employees at a retirement party, reporters at a press briefing –

I’ve seen all those and more. When you can define your audience, then you will know what’s important to them and what will want them to listen to you.

Here’s the key: you don’t tell them. You ask the questions; you make the statements that intrigue them.

Example

You’re giving a speech about buying tires. Your average listener doesn’t know much about tires except how much they’re willing to pay. How do you make them interested? Appeal to what they do know and think about. Your introduction may be:

“When you drive, do you think about what you’re driving on? The roads, the snow, the potholes? Where you drive matters far more than the money you’ll spend – or waste – on tires. Kim Krajci is here today to show you how to invest in your safety and your vehicle, and why you may be throwing away your money even if you think you’re saving it when you buy your next set of tires. Ladies and Gentlemen, Will Your Next Set of Tires Save Your Life? Kim Krajci.”

Writing a good introduction should follow your speech preparation – it’s faster that way because you already know what information you’re going to give. You write questions into your intro that you’ll answer in your speech. This speech is focused on safety, money, and value, so that’s what my intro will cover without giving away all of my content.

That’s why it’s key. In your speech introduction, you’re posing the questions you want your audience to be asking themselves. You don’t let the Toastmaster of the Day answer the questions – you answer them in your speech.

Credentials?

Some clubs encourage the addition of your credentials in your intro.

I have no problem with that if there’s time for that level of detail. If I were speaking to a club about the power of good marketing – which I know about – I might add in my credentials to build up my value in the audience’s mind. Speaking in a professional setting, I would do that. I’ve done it. I spoke at an organization’s meeting last year where we discussed what they needed to do to attract new members. It would be an uphill battle for them – it wasn’t a forward-thinking crowd. I included my credentials and experience in my intro to be sure they knew I wasn’t someone trying to score the big bucks from them without any real experience or knowledge.

Please use the Toastmaster of the Day to their best advantage. Give them the introduction you deserve and need to reach your audience.

This is exactly what didn’t happen at the club meeting that I visited. One of the speakers didn’t give the TMOD an introduction, so this very creative man started the introduction like this: “When I don’t get a written introduction, it gives me permission to make up anything I want.” He proceeded to introduce the speaker as an astronaut who had walked on the moon. It was funny, it was cute, and… it was entirely wrong for that speaker with that speech.

Risky

Now, it’s risky to do this… to riff a speaker intro. You may end up preparing the audience for the wrong type of speech. That’s bad. Very bad – almost unprofessional. But you know… that speaker has probably never forgotten her speech intro again. At least, I hope not.

I’ve done this myself. I didn’t have an intro for a speaker, so I talked about her skills as a lion tamer. Her speech was on chemistry. Polymer chemistry – which I know nothing about. Not the best introduction for a speech that was filled with interesting facts about how rubber and plastics are used in buildings in earthquake zones and in bridges and all sorts of different things I’d never thought about. Ok, I’m a geek from Akron, Ohio, the city once known as the Rubber Capital of the World – so that interested me but I was also embarrassed that I’d done her such a disservice in her introduction.

It may be better for everyone if the TMOD just asks the speaker for their speech title – remember a speech is not entitled, it’s titled – and use the contest introduction: name, speech title, speech title, name. But that’s a disservice to you. Don’t handicap yourself. Write a good introduction and give yourself a good title.

What’s a good title?

My protégé – that’s what Toastmasters says I should call my mentee now – asked me about the title for her speech. She’s giving her ice breaker tonight. As a professional writer, she’s keenly aware of the power of titles and headlines.

In a time when we are inundated with too much content, most people resort to scanning, not reading. What’s the key point a reader needs to know? How much detail are they willing to wade through?

This is why we get clickbait headlines like 7 Ways to Entice Your Audience to Give You a Standing Ovation – and you’ll never believe number 5!

Don’t tell me you haven’t fallen for that type of headline on an ad on the internet. Those titles are designed to get you to click on them. It’s practically a science. In fact, there are headline generators out there with dozens of suggestions for you when you enter your key phrase. http://Title-Generator.com is one of many out there which has a single page that I think is absolutely brilliant. The Headline Scorecard – links are in the show notes – asks 5 questions. When you answer those, you may have your title.

At least you will – if you’re pitching something. If you’re giving a straight informational speech, that may be too much. Would you consider using a rhetorical question as your title? In my example about buying tires, I titled my speech Will Your Next Set of Tires Save Your Life?

The Goal of Your Title

Your goal with your title in to intrigue your audience. Some people like to be clever; some people like to use puns. I’m good with both. It doesn’t have to be complex:
Adventures of a Risk Taker is far better than I’m a Risk-Taker. Four words, but Adventures is such a strong word, while “I’m a” is very self-centric and may be off-putting – or simply not intriguing enough if people don’t know you well enough to know how you’re a risk-taker.

I started this podcast episode with 2. Two changes. So what’s the second?
This has gone pretty long. How about we do that on our next episode?

Anticipation vs Annoyance

See what I did there? I created anticipation. And if I don’t deliver, my audience will be annoyed with me. Make sure you deliver on your speech title!

Ok, the second thing that was done at the club visit I made was designed for me.

The timer took careful notes of each speaker – prepared, Table Topics, and even evaluators. Then when he delivered his report, he made the best puns on the earth on the content. When one Table Topics speaker talked about her vegetarianism, he said “Our second Table Topics speaker didn’t give us any bull in 2 minutes and 3 seconds.” The speaker who was introduced as an astronaut but gave a speech about a local civic issue? That timer report was incredibly clever – “Speaker number one gave us a high-level perspective about the upcoming election in an astronomical 5 minutes and 40 seconds” – tying up the introduction and the speech topic. Even evaluators were included: “Evaluator Three sought to help you find your way on your speech on caves in 1 minute, 59 seconds.”

Over the years, I have striven to reach this level of timer report skill. I still haven’t mastered it.

Wrap it up, Kim

Learning how to speak is important – learning how to sell your speech in an introduction isn’t always clear. You’ll practice and you’ll fail but when you discover the secrets to naming your speech and writing a creative and effective introduction will help you succeed in your public speaking!

Our music is from incompetech.filmmusic.io

Toastmasters 101 is a podcast production of Toastmasters District 10.

Our Toastmasters International Convention starts this month. And instead of paying airline prices and hotel fees as well as the convention costs, we can attend the 2020 Virtual Convention for free! You can register now at https://www.toastmasters.org/events/2020-international-convention – the link is in the show notes. You can even see the World Championship of Public Speaking.

Since we’re sponsored by District 10, I’m going to mention Dr. Kitty Brandal, the finalist from our district. You should root for your district’s winner!

If you know someone who needs Toastmasters, invite them to your club this week. If they can’t come, send them to Toastmasters 101 podcast – available on their podcast player.

Thanks – and we’ll see you next week on Toastmasters 101 podcast.  We’re going to talk about images in your speeches.