When drafting your speech every part is important if your audience is to be entertained, informed or persuaded. However, from your point of view the introduction is the by far the most important. You should devote much time and effort to getting this part right. If you start well your chances of delivering a great speech are enhanced. If you start badly it is unlikely that you or your audience will recover from the experience.
The reasons for this are as follows.
Your introduction is the first experience that your audience will have of you. Humans tend to judge others within seconds of meeting. You must work to make that judgement favourable to you.
The introduction sets the tone for the speech. Will it be interesting and informative or dull and banal? Your first words should electrify your audience about your subject and make them yearn for more..
The introduction is the point in the meeting when you establish control of your audience. Clearly in this sense control does not mean that they bend to your every whim. No, I refer to that symbiotic relationship between the audience and the orator in which the former agrees to concentrate and listen and the latter therefore wins the right to address them.. If you fail in this they will probably still sit quietly as most people are polite but they will have detached from the relationship that is essential for all good speeches.
Quite apart from the effect a good introduction has on your audience it has great benefits for you.
It calms your nerves. The anticipation is over. You are up and speaking and you know you are speaking well. You have prepared this part and you are confident.
It warms up your vocal chords and allows you to set the tone of your voice.
This helps you to pitch the loudness of your voice depending on the acoustics in the room and any sound system that you may be using..
It gives you the chance to slow down your delivery. Most people start talking too quickly and need to slow their rate of speech so that the audience can catch up. It is often taught by voice coaches that there is virtually no such thing as a delivery that is too slow provided that it does not sound like a cassette tape when the batteries have run down.. A slow deliberate speaking style establishes authority as well as allowing listeners to keep up.
It is your first opportunity to establish eye contact with your audience. You will have memorised this first part of your speech so that you can look your audience in the eye. Look round the room and draw every part into your contact routine. You cannot possibly look every individual in the eye but each section of the room must feel that they are being addressed. Remember that each member of the audience can tell if you are avoiding eye contact even if you have not looked at them directly.
It allows your brain to relax and let the subsequent passages of your speech come more easily to mind.
For all these reasons you can see how important the introduction to your speech is. The good news is that you can fashion a few standard introductions to almost every speech that you make. Take particular care over making it as easy as possible for you to flow into it. Your standard opening remarks must be easy to adapt from the closing words of the person who has introduced you which in turn move on to some phrases that can be used on almost any occasion..
A useful one is to tell a story about yourself. Once when I was giving a speech without fee I was introduced by the chairman who was no doubt a delightful if rather flustered person with the line, “We now welcome Mr. Ross who has kindly agreed to speak for no fee which means that next month we will be able to afford a proper speaker.” This always gets a laugh and is a great ice breaker. No one can take offense as the joke is directed at the speaker..
A familiar and well rehearsed opening gives you the comfort of getting on to familiar ground which will be the springboard of your speech.