Nail That Speech Introduction - How to Write a Speech (Part 1)

Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike
Nail That Speech Introduction - How to Write a Speech (Part 1)

Forrest Gump once said, “life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.” Well, he’s wrong! If he read the label, he’d know exactly what was inside. And if the label doesn’t specify, feel free to file a lawsuit against the chocolate factory for breaking consumer protection laws and retire young when you win.

Public speaking is just like that – a perfectly-planned box of chocolates, with pre-prepared, cleverly worded jokes that are delivered in a way that sounds spontaneously delicious. Are you anxious or worried about your next public speaking project or competition? LearningLeaders will be sharing some tips on how you could nail a public speech. Let’s start with how to create a fun speech introduction, and begin communicating with confidence!

Before we jump into the techniques, let’s first take a look at what an OO (Original Oratory) hook is. OO hook is an introduction that grabs your attention by connecting, intriguing, and guiding your audience. Hooks help to set the right tone for your speech and can come in the form of a personal or non-personal anecdote. Anecdotes are effective in OO because they build a connection between you and your audience and help establish credibility, especially when they are personal.

Here is an example of a personal anecdote:

Imagine that you’re giving an Original Oratory about the importance of protecting urban fauna and wanted to share your experience of adopting a stray cat. Since her adoption, your cat has developed a habit of opening the fridge at night and stealing any food that’s in sight.

With this anecdote in mind, let’s see how you can incorporate one or even several rhetorically humorous techniques to get your audience chuckling. There are four techniques we will be focusing on this article:

· Rule of Three with Indirection

· Anaphora with a Twisted Quotation

· Rhetorical Question with the Opposite Answer

· Analogies with Exaggeration


This technique is what many of what already use in our daily lives. You might say something like, “I came, I saw, I conquered,” which expresses one idea in a three-part structure. Now to introduce humor into the equation, you want to take your audience in a different direction. The first two items in the list should consist of normal or even predictable ideas, but the third item will be something unexpected, strange, or different, hence, an indirection. For instance, you can say something like this: “I woke up in the middle of the night and I went on a mission to grab a snack in my kitchen. I came, I saw, and I got disappointed. Why? Because the fridge door was open and the kitten I just adopted a day earlier was eating my strawberry cupcakes. Despite this, I still love her and recognize the importance of getting stray animals off the streets and in our homes. I might have lost a cupcake, but I’ve won a new friend: Tofu.” As you’ve seen from this example, the reason why the rule of three adds a sprinkle of humor to this hook is that the last word or phrase is unexpected. You still have to explain the last word or provide context for it, because otherwise, the audience could get confused.


Anaphora is a rhetorical technique in which you use repetition at the beginning of a phrase, sentence, or paragraph. A classic example of anaphora is Martin Luther King’s speech ‘I have a dream’ where he repeats this phrase several times throughout.

Now to make it funnier, you can use the technique called twisted quotation, in which you modify the final words of a recognizable quote to create a punch line. Use any famous quote you want and change it in a way that fits your speech topic. It can be a philosophical quote, a line from a movie or book, or even a song title, so long as it’s well-known enough that the audience will catch the reference! For example, a hook about your health habits might be: “I have a dream that one day I will go to gym. I have a dream that, the same day, the gym will be closed.”


Rhetorical questions are questions that don’t require an answer from your listeners. Their intention is to illustrate a point that the audience is likely to agree with. However, if you provide an answer that is the opposite of what your audience expected, sometimes in the form of a yes or no question, you’re likely to get some good laughs. For instance, let’s say you want to bring Tofu the kitten back into your hook.

You could say something like this:

“Did you think I would ever beg my mom for a bedsheet-ripping, cupcake-eating kitten? Alright, alright, yes I did. But Tofu was so soft and cuddly, how could I resist?”

Notice how the question was worded to describe the cat only from a negative perspective, priming the audience to expect a different answer than the one that was given.


Analogies simply compare key ideas. To use them, your comparison should lead to a surprise at the end that results in laughter. An analogous hook could sound something like this:

“I have recently decided that I no longer need to go to the gym. I get enough exercise at home as it is, routinely running every day at top speed. My goal? To catch fat Tofu before she pees on my bed.”

There you go. You have already learned four rhetorical techniques to craft a humorous speech introduction. See? You didn’t have to be naturally funny. But we’re just getting started! Humor goes beyond what you write.

So, head over to Part II of Nailing Your Intro, where we'll talk about using effective pauses!

Feeling ready to practice public speaking but need some help? Join the LearningLeaders Academy program today!

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Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike