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8.3: Putting It Together- Steps to Complete Your Introduction

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    Learning Objectives

    1. Clearly identify why an audience should listen to a speaker.
    2. Discuss how to build credibility during a speech.
    3. Write a clear thesis statement.
    4. Design an effective preview of your speech’s content for your audience.


    Puzzle pieces

    Once we have captured our audience’s attention, it’s important to make the rest of our introduction interesting, and use it to lay out the rest of the speech. In this section, we are going to explore the five remaining parts of an effective introduction: linking to the topic, reasons to listen, stating credibility, thesis statement, and preview.

    Link to Topic

    After the attention-getter, the second major part of an introduction is called the link to topic. The link to topic is the shortest part of an introduction and occurs when a speaker demonstrates how an attention-getting device relates to the topic of a speech. Often the attention-getter and the link to topic are very clear. For example, remember the attention-getting device example under historical reference in the previous section, we see that the first sentence brings up the history of the Vietnam War and then shows us how that war can help us understand the Iraq War. In this case, the attention-getter clearly flows directly to the topic. However, some attention-getters need further explanation to get to the topic of the speech. For example, both of the anecdote examples (the girl falling into the manhole while texting and the boy and the filberts) need further explanation to connect clearly to the speech topic (i.e., problems of multitasking in today’s society).

    Let’s look at the first anecdote example to demonstrate how we could go from the attention-getter to the topic.

    In July 2009, a high school girl named Alexa Longueira was walking along a main boulevard near her home on Staten Island, New York, typing in a message on her cell phone. Not paying attention to the world around her, she took a step and fell right into an open manhole. This anecdote illustrates the problem that many people are facing in today’s world. We are so wired into our technology that we forget to see what’s going on around us—like a big hole in front of us.

    In this example, the third sentence here explains that the attention-getter was an anecdote that illustrates a real issue. The fourth sentence then introduces the actual topic of the speech.

    Let’s now examine how we can make the transition from the parable or fable attention-getter to the topic. The paragraph below provides an example of how that might be done:

    "The ancient Greek writer Aesop told a fable about a boy who put his hand into a pitcher of filberts. The boy grabbed as many of the delicious nuts as he possibly could. But when he tried to pull them out, his hand wouldn’t fit through the neck of the pitcher because he was grasping so many filberts. Instead of dropping some of them so that his hand would fit, he burst into tears and cried about his predicament. The moral of the story? 'Don’t try to do too much at once.' In today’s world, many of us are us are just like the boy putting his hand into the pitcher. We are constantly trying to grab so much or do so much that it prevents us from accomplishing our goals. I would like to show you three simple techniques to manage your time so that you don’t try to pull too many filberts from your pitcher."

    In this example, we added three new sentences to the attention-getter to connect it to the speech topic.

    Reasons to Listen

    Once we have linked an attention-getter to the topic of a speech, we need to explain why ther topic is important. We call this the “why should I care?” part of the speech because it tells our audience why the topic is directly important to them. Sometimes we can include the significance of our topics in the same sentence as our links to the topic, but other times we may need to spell out in one or two sentences why our specific topic is important.

    People in today’s world are very busy, and they do not like their time wasted. Nothing is worse than having to sit through a speech that is irrelevant. Imagine sitting through a speech about a new software package that no one owns and will never hear of again. How would we react to the speaker? Most of us would be pretty annoyed at having had our time wasted in this way. Obviously, this particular speaker didn’t do a great job of analyzing her, his, or their audience if the audience isn’t going to use the software package—but even when speaking on a topic that is highly relevant to the audience, speakers often totally forget to explain how and why it is important.

    Appearing Credible

    The next part of a speech is not so much a specific “part” as an important characteristic that needs to be pervasive throughout the introduction and the entire speech. As a speaker, we want to be seen as credible (competent, trustworthy, and caring/having goodwill). As mentioned earlier in this chapter, credibility is ultimately a perception that is made by the audience. While the audience determines whether they perceive us as competent, trustworthy, and caring/having goodwill, there are some strategies we can employ to make ourselves appear more credible.

    First, to appear competent, we can either clearly explain to our audiences why we are competent about a given subject or demonstrate our competence by showing that we have thoroughly researched a topic by including relevant references within the introduction. The first method of demonstrating competence—saying it directly—is only effective if we are actually a competent person on a given subject. If an undergraduate student is delivering a speech about the importance of string theory in physics, unless they are a prodigy of some kind, they are probably not a recognized expert on the subject. Conversely, if another student's number one hobby in life is collecting memorabilia about the Three Stooges, then they may be an expert about the Three Stooges. However, they would need to explain to their audience their passion for collecting Three Stooges memorabilia and how this has made them an expert on the topic.

    The second characteristic of credibility, trustworthiness, is a little more complicated than competence, for it ultimately relies on audience perceptions. One way to increase the likelihood that a speaker will be perceived as trustworthy is to use reputable sources. If quoting Dr. John Smith, then explain who Dr. John Smith is so the audience will see the quotation as being more trustworthy. As speakers, we can easily manipulate our sources into appearing more credible than they actually are, which would be unethical. When we are honest about our sources with our audience, they will trust us and our information more so than when we are ambiguous. The worst thing we can do is to out-and-out lie about information during a speech. Not only is lying highly unethical, but if we are caught lying, our audience will deem us untrustworthy and perceive everything we are saying as untrustworthy. Many speakers have attempted to lie to an audience because it will serve their own purposes or even because they believe their message is in their audience’s best interest, but lying is one of the fastest ways to turn off an audience and get them to distrust both the speaker and the message.

    The third characteristic of credibility to establish during the introduction is the sense of caring/goodwill. While some unethical speakers can attempt to manipulate an audience’s perception that the speaker cares, ethical speakers truly do care about their audiences and have their audience’s best interests in mind while speaking. Often speakers must speak in front of audiences that may be hostile toward the speaker’s message. In these cases, it is very important for the speaker to explain that they really do believe their message is in the audience’s best interest. One way to show that we have our audience’s best interests in mind is to acknowledge disagreement from the start:

    "Today I’m going to talk about why I believe we should enforce stricter immigration laws in the United States. I realize that many of you will disagree with me on this topic. I used to believe that open immigration was a necessity for the United States to survive and thrive, but after researching this topic, I’ve changed my mind. While I may not change all of your minds today, I do ask that you listen with an open mind, set your personal feelings on this topic aside, and judge my arguments on their merits."

    While clearly not all audience members will be open or receptive to opening their minds and listening to your arguments, by establishing that there is known disagreement, we are telling the audience that we understand their possible views and are not trying to attack their intellect or their opinions.

    Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement is a short, declarative sentence that states the purpose, intent, or main idea of a speech. A strong, clear thesis statement is very valuable within an introduction because it lays out the basic goal of the entire speech. We strongly believe that it is worthwhile to invest some time in framing and writing a good thesis statement. We suggest writing the thesis statement before we even begin conducting research for a speech. Even though it will be necessary to rewrite the thesis later, having a clear idea of purpose, intent, or main idea before beginning the research process will help focus on the most appropriate material. To help us understand thesis statements, we will first explore their basic functions and then discuss how to write a thesis statement.

    Basic Functions of a Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement helps the audience by letting them know “in a nutshell” what a speaker is going to talk about. A good thesis statement will fulfill four basic functions: express specific purpose, provide a way to organize main points, make research more effective, and enhance delivery.

    Express Your Specific Purpose

    To orient an audience, be as clear as possible about meaning. A strong thesis will prepare the audience effectively for the points that will follow. Here are two examples:

    1. “Today, I want to discuss academic cheating.” (weak example)
    2. “Today, I will clarify exactly what plagiarism is and give examples of its different types so that you can see how it leads to a loss of creative learning interaction.” (strong example)

    The weak statement will probably give the impression that we have no clear position about our topic because we haven’t said what that position is. Additionally, the term “academic cheating” can refer to many behaviors—acquiring test questions ahead of time, copying answers, changing grades, or allowing others to do your coursework—so the specific topic of the speech is still not clear to the audience.

    The strong statement not only specifies plagiarism but also states our specific concerns (loss of creative learning interaction).

    Provide a Way to Organize Main Points

    A thesis statement should appear, almost verbatim, toward the end of the introduction to a speech, usually the final sentence of the introduction. A thesis statement helps the audience get ready to listen to the arrangement of points that follow. Many speakers say that if they can create a strong thesis sentence, the rest of the speech tends to develop with relative ease. On the other hand, when the thesis statement is not very clear, creating a speech is an uphill battle.

    When the thesis statement is sufficiently clear and decisive, it's clear where the speech will go. 

    Let’s say we have a fairly strong thesis statement, and that we've already brainstormed a list of information that we know about the topic. Chances are our list is too long and has no focus. Using our thesis statement, we can select only the information that (1) is directly related to the thesis and (2) can be arranged in a sequence that will make sense to the audience and will support the thesis. In essence, a strong thesis statement helps us keep useful information and weed out less useful information.

    Make Your Research More Effective

    If we begin our research with only a general topic in mind, we run the risk of spending hours reading mountains of excellent literature about our topic. However, mountains of literature do not always make coherent speeches. We may have little or no idea of how to tie our research all together, or even whether we should tie it together. If, on the other hand, we conduct our research with a clear thesis statement in mind, we will be better able to zero in only on material that directly relates to our chosen thesis statement. Let’s look at an example that illustrates this point:

    Many traffic accidents involve drivers older than fifty-five.

    While this statement may be true, we could find industrial, medical, insurance literature that can drone on ad infinitum about the details of all such accidents in just one year. Instead, focusing our thesis statement will help us narrow the scope of information we will be searching for while gathering information. Here’s an example of a more focused thesis statement:

    Three factors contribute to most accidents involving drivers over fifty-five years of age: failing eyesight, slower reflexes, and rapidly changing traffic conditions.

    This framing is somewhat better. This thesis statement at least provides three possible main points and some keywords for your electronic catalog search. However, if we want our audience to understand the context of older people at the wheel, consider something like:

    Mature drivers over fifty-five years of age must cope with more challenging driving conditions than existed only one generation ago: more traffic moving at higher speeds, the increased imperative for quick driving decisions, and rapidly changing ramp and cloverleaf systems. Because of these challenges, I want my audience to believe that drivers over the age of sixty-five should be required to pass a driving test every five years.

    This framing of the thesis provides some interesting choices. First, several terms need to be defined, and these definitions might function surprisingly well in setting the tone of the speech. Definitions of words like “generation,” “quick driving decisions,” and “cloverleaf systems” could jolt our audiences out of assumptions they have taken for granted as truth.

    Second, the framing of the thesis provides us with a way to describe the specific changes as they have occurred between, say, 1970 and 2010. How much, and in what ways, have the volume and speed of traffic changed? Why are quick decisions more critical now? What is a “cloverleaf,” and how does any driver deal cognitively with exiting in the direction seemingly opposite to the desired one? Questions like this, suggested by our own thesis statement, can lead to a strong, memorable speech.

    Enhance Your Delivery

    With a good clear thesis statement, our speech becomes clear to our listeners. When we stand in front of our audience presenting our introductions, we can vocally emphasize the essence of our speech, expressed as our thesis statement. Many speakers pause for a half second, lower their vocal pitch slightly, slow down a little, and deliberately present the thesis statement, the one sentence that encapsulates its purpose. When this is done effectively, the purpose, intent, or main idea of a speech is driven home for an audience.

    How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Now that we’ve looked at why a thesis statement is crucial in a speech, let’s switch gears and talk about how we go about writing a solid thesis statement. 

    Choose a Topic

    As discussed in a previous chapter, choosing a topic is the first step in writing a speech. Once you have a general topic, you are ready to go to the second step of creating a thesis statement.

    Narrow the Topic

    One of the hardest parts of writing a thesis statement is narrowing a speech from a broad topic to one that can be easily covered during a five- to ten-minute speech. While five to ten minutes may sound like a long time to new public speakers, the time flies by very quickly when speaking. We can easily run out of time if our topics are too broad. 

    Put the Topic into a Sentence

    Once we've narrowed our topics to something that is reasonably manageable given the constraints placed on our speeches, we can then formalize those topics as a complete sentence. Once we have a clear topic sentence, we can start tweaking the thesis statement to help set up the purpose of our speech.

    Add the Argument, Viewpoint, or Opinion

    This function only applies when giving a speech to persuade. If our topic is informative, our jobs are to make sure that the thesis statement is nonargumentative and focuses on facts. On the other hand, if our topic is persuasive, we want to make sure that our argument, viewpoint, or opinion is clearly indicated within the thesis statement. 

    Use the Thesis Checklist

    Once we have written a first draft of our thesis statement, we are probably going to end up revising our thesis statements a number of times prior to delivering our actual speeches. A thesis statement is something that is constantly tweaked until the speech is given. As our speech develops, often our thesis will need to be rewritten to whatever direction the speech itself has taken. We often start with a speech going in one direction, and find out through our research that we should have gone in a different direction. When we think we finally have a thesis statement that is good to go for our speeches, we will take a second and make sure it adheres to the criteria shown in Table 8.4.1 “Thesis Checklist”

    Table 8.3.1 Thesis Checklist


    For each of the following questions, check either “yes” or “no.”





    1. Does your thesis clearly reflect the topic of your speech?    
    2. Can you adequately cover the topic indicated in your thesis within the time you have for your speech?    
    3. Is your thesis statement simple?    
    4. Is your thesis statement direct?    
    5. Does your thesis statement gain an audience’s interest?    
    6. Is your thesis statement easy to understand?    
    Persuasive Speeches
    7. Does your thesis statement introduce a clear argument?    
    8. Does your thesis statement clearly indicate what your audience should do, how your audience should think, or how your audience should feel?    
    Scoring: For a strong thesis statement, all your answers should have been “yes.”

    Preview of Speech

    The final part of an introduction contains a preview of the major points to be covered within the speech. We've all seen signs that have three cities listed on them with the mileage to reach each city. This mileage sign is an indication of what is to come. A preview works the same way. A preview foreshadows what the main body points will be in the speech. For example, to preview a speech on bullying in the workplace, one could say, “To understand the nature of bullying in the modern workplace, I will first define what workplace bullying is and the types of bullying, I will then discuss the common characteristics of both workplace bullies and their targets, and lastly, I will explore some possible solutions to workplace bullying.” In this case, each of the phrases mentioned in the preview would be a single distinct point made in the speech itself. In other words, the first major body point in this speech would examine what workplace bullying is and the types of bullying; the second major body point in this speech would discuss the common characteristics of both workplace bullies and their targets; and lastly, the third body point in this speech would explore some possible solutions to workplace bullying.

    Key Takeaways

    • Linking the attention-getter to the speech topic is essential to maintain audience attention and so that the relevance of the attention-getter is clear to the audience.
    • Establishing speech topic relevance and importance shows the audience why they should listen to the speech.
    • To be an effective speaker, convey all three components of credibility, competence, trustworthiness, and caring/goodwill, by the content and delivery of the introduction.
    • A clear thesis statement is essential to provide structure for a speaker and clarity for an audience.
    • An effective preview identifies the specific main points that will be present in the speech body.


    1. Make a list of the attention-getting devices you might use to give a speech on the importance of recycling. Which do you think would be most effective? Why?
    2. Create a thesis statement for a speech related to the topic of collegiate athletics. Make sure that your thesis statement is narrow enough to be adequately covered in a five- to six-minute speech.
    3. Discuss with a partner three possible body points you could utilize for the speech on the topic of volunteerism.
    4. Fill out the introduction worksheet to help work through your introduction for your next speech. Please make sure that you answer all the questions clearly and concisely.

    8.3: Putting It Together- Steps to Complete Your Introduction is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.