Writing and Revising the Introduction

Learning Objectives

Outline strategies to write and revise a strong introduction.

By this point, hopefully your introduction has been rightly thought through as the important beginning to your speech that it is. Now the next step is to ensure that your introduction is as strong as it can be by carefully writing and revising it.

Question #1: How long is my introduction?

Begin by ensuring that your introduction is no longer than 10–15% of your total speech. That means that in a five-minute speech, your introduction will last between 30 and 45 seconds. In a ten-minute speech, your introduction will last between 60 and 90 seconds.

A line showing the length of the speech. The introduction is 10-15%, the body is 75-85%, and the conclusion is 5-10%

The introduction should be about 10–15% of the total length of the speech.

Question #2: How effective is my attention-getter?

Flamingoes searching for food

A startling fact: “Since flamingos spend most of their time in water with high salt concentrations, they have to get fresh water from boiling geysers. The flamingo is one of the few animals who likes to drink water at a boiling point. Another, of course, is the human. I’m here today to talk about tea.”

Although your speaking situation may only require the lowest order of attention-getters, the best way to start your speech is with one of the highest order attention-getters: an anecdote, a provocative statement, or a startling statistic/strange fact. By moving up the echelon of attention-getting devices, you will entice the audience and bolster your own credibility in the process.

Question #3: Have I adequately linked my attention-getter to my topic?

If you picture your introduction as a funnel, your attention-getter should filter into your topic and lead to your thesis through a logical sequence of ideas. Your attention-getter should be relevant to your topic by teasing or introducing the idea. After the attention-getter, you should then provide a more specific statement that narrows the focus onto your topic, and introduce your thesis.

Question #4: How strong is my thesis?

A strong thesis is clear, succinct, and simple. The audience should have no doubt what your topic is, the specific aspect of the topic that will be discussed, and your stance on it. You can make your thesis even stronger by swapping out any passive verbs in favor of active ones; paring down the wording; and drawing attention to your thesis by beginning it with a time indicator, such as “Today . . . .”

Question #5: Have I provided a reason to listen?

Your introduction should contain a significance statement either just before or just after your thesis that provides the importance, timeliness, exigency, and relevance of your topic in direct relation to your audience. Since the speaker generally chooses their own topic, the audience already knows that the topic is important to the speaker. Therefore, to bolster speaker credibility, one should use a reputable source to support this statement. Further, audience analysis should be used to illustrate how the topic impacts the audience members, whether socially, financially, ethically, health-wise, etc.

Question #6: How easy is it to recall my preview?

The last part of your introduction should be a simple preview of your main body points. A good preview is easy for the audience to identify and recall. Using time indicators such as first, next, and finally help the audience to clearly separate each main point in the preview. In addition, a great preview exercises word economy by creating names for each main point. A name is created by boiling the main point down to one or two key words. Names can then be reworked with literary techniques such as rhyming, alliteration, and parallel structure to help the audience recall the tags. Finally, the main points should be stated in the same order they will be presented during the speech.

Question #7: How have I established my credibility?

Unfortunately, it is not as easy as just being friendly, having a title, or simply telling an audience to trust you. Audience members have access to their own knowledge, experience, and research. As such, they likely trust themselves more that they will trust you. Further, even experts can be considered out-of-touch know-it-alls if they do not show an understanding of their audience’s experience and knowledge.

To establish credibility, a speaker needs to demonstrate competence, trustworthiness, and goodwill and caring toward the audience.  Good speakers use every avenue available to establish from the very beginning and continue reinforcing their credibility.

  • Nonverbal Credibility: appropriate dress for the occasion; using open, friendly, and appropriate facial expressions; displaying preparation and confidence; maintaining eye contact
  • Verbal Credibility: using appropriate and relatable language, correct use of words
  • Content Credibility: using credible sources, showing knowledge of audience experience and goals, using logical reasoning

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