(This is Part 1 in the Communicators University Series. Read the Introduction here.)
Sooner or later you’ll be asked to speak publicly, whether for work, a ministry opportunity, a family function, or some other social occasion. What separates good public communication from so-so public communication? Lots of things, and for the most part they are learnable skills. In this series, Communicators University, I’ll give you what I’ve learned and passed on to many others as I’ve helped them increase their capacities. My hope is that when you have to say something you’ll have something to say.
Getting People to Tune In
Let’s start at the beginning: introductions. Listeners make up their mind within the first 90 seconds whether they’re going to stay tuned, so an effective introduction is critical for public communication. In my earliest days I learned from Haddon Robinson the three elements to effective introductions. They are:
- Get attention. No matter what listeners’ faces may tell you, their minds are already multi-tasking. We need to get their attention with something interesting.
- Raise a need. Great communication requires a great question. What puzzle is being posed that can’t be ignored without continuing to listen?
- Orient to the subject or text. The simple transition which shows the listener where we’ll find the answer to our big question.
At first glance, these elements seem obvious and almost pedantic. But think about what happens when they are stranded alone. The most common abuse of an introduction I see is when a speaker gets attention but fails to raise a need. They may begin with a humorous story or joke (“a funny”), and after the obligatory tension release at the punch line, the listeners are left stranded. The joke had nothing to do with the subject, and the need was never raised. In cases like these, the attention which has been awoken is short-lived, and the listener goes on to multi-tasking.
Listen to more public speaking, and pay attention to those messages that grip you early and won’t let you go. You can create captivating introductions if you keep these three fundamentals at the top of your list. Tell me a story, pique my curiosity, and dare me to ignore you.