How to create an introduction

In debating, the introductory passage of the speeches is often neglected. However, there is hardly a second chance to make a (good) first impression. So, here are a few rules.

Things you must do

  • Be relevant. Don’t wander off the topic, but choose an example or story that illuminates the topic.
  • Avoid linguistic clichés: Don’t start with anything “Today, I want to…” or “My speech is about…”.
  • Be friendly. It is essential to create a positive relationship with the audience, even though you might attack the opposing side.
  • Be credible. Avoid factual mistakes in the introduction. A wrong number or a mispronounced name can kill of your reputation in a second.
  • Don’t offend anyone. It’s rather easy to offend a diverse audience by using clichés. Show respect for the background your audience has – their ethnic, religious and cultural experience.
  • Be inclusive. Make sure everyone in the audience can see what your speech has to do with their personal lives. Keep in mind that people might be asking themselves: What is in it for me?
  • Relate to context. Show how your message is embedded in a wider network of meaning. Try to attain a bigger scope for what you have to say.
  • Establish common ground. Your introduction should create a feeling of belonging by sharing the knowledge one needs to understand the motion. Don’t be arrogant, but show how difficult the topic can be.
  • Connect to a previous speaker. If possible, include references to what your side or the opposing side have presented.

Things you should do

  • Tell a story. It’s always good to tell a story that adds emotional impact to what you mean to say. Also, stories and anecdotes create a positive atmosphere and make it easier to remember you and your speech. If the topic permits, debaters can be quite effective by telling biographic stories from their own lives.
  • Give a witty definition. Sometimes, well-established definitions can lead to your personal definition of a key term in your speech.
  • Ask a question. Questions are effective rhetorical devices that spark everyone’s attention and create interest in what you have to say.
  • Make a thought-provoking statement. Start up with something big – something quite unusual or astonishing that makes the reader wonder what comes next.
  • Use humour. Depending on the topic, cracking a joke or telling an amusing story can be quite relaxing for you as the speaker and the audience as well.
  • Refer to history. It can be quite entertaining and illustrative to shed some light on how things have evolved over the course of time. However, this requires for solid background knowledge or profound research. Make sure you don’t announce your historical adventure – whenever some people hear the word “history”, they’ll fall asleep immediately.
  • Present a quotation: If you can quote from a famous source, this might also add greatly to the effectiveness of your speech.
  • Use a prop: In the beginning of your speech, hold up a prop that refers to the topic.
  • Refer to the occasion or purpose of the gathering. In debating, you can talk about the debating hall, the venue or the purpose of debating itself.