Tell a Story
When you tell a story, whether in the introduction to your speech or not, you should aim to paint word pictures in the minds of your audience members. You might tell a story from your own life or recount a story you found in your research. You may also use a hypothetical story, which has the advantage of allowing you to use your creativity and help place your audience in unusual situations that neither you nor they have actually experienced. When using a hypothetical story, you should let your audience know it’s not real, and you should present a story that the audience can relate to. Speakers often let the audience know a story is not real by starting with the word imagine. As I noted, a hypothetical example can allow you to speak beyond the experience of you and your audience members by having them imagine themselves in unusual circumstances. These circumstances should not be so unusual that the audience can’t relate to them. I once had a student start her speech by saying, “Imagine being held as a prisoner of war for seven years.” While that’s definitely a dramatic opener, I don’t think students in our class were able to really get themselves into that imagined space in the second or two that we had before the speaker moved on. It may have been better for the speaker to say, “Think of someone you really care about. Visualize that person in your mind. Now, imagine that days and weeks go by and you haven’t heard from that person. Weeks turn into months and years, and you have no idea if they are alive or dead.” The speaker could go on to compare that scenario to the experiences of friends and family of prisoners of war. While we may not be able to imagine being held captive for years, we all know what it’s like to experience uncertainty regarding the safety of a loved one.