Use an 'Inverted Triangle' in Your Introduction

When I was teaching public speaking, one of the biggest complaints I heard from my students was, "I don't know how to start!" This is a problem that goes well beyond classroom speeches, however. Many of the questions I get from business speakers are also about introductions: Should I use a joke? Should I just state my position right away? How do I get the audience's attention? One tool that I have found to be very useful when trying to write an introduction is called the "Inverted Triangle." This concept is used mainly in journalism, but it works great for speech introductions as well. When writing your introduction, visualize it as a triangle with its widest part at the top and the point at the bottom. This triangle represents how specific your information is at any given time in your introduction. The wide part at the top represents fairly general information, and, as the triangle becomes narrower, the information becomes more specific. In essence, the inverted triangle is just a way to remember that you should go from the general to the specific in your introduction. I've found that the best way to put this into practice is to start off by talking about some general issue or problem. Then, I try to apply it more specifically to the audience that I am talking to. Then I become even more specific by advocating a particular plan or solution. As an example, if you were giving a presentation on your business opportunity, you might begin by talking about the economy (general), and how hard it is for some people to make ends meet (a little more specific). Then, you would discuss how nice it would be for your audience to have some extra money to pay bills or buy that luxury item they've always wanted (more specific). Then, finally, you would introduce your opportunity as a way that they could accomplish this (even more specific). As you can see, this format is a nice way of leading into a subject. By using the triangle, you can "ease" your way into making your main point at the end of the introduction. The inverted triangle certainly isn't the only way to structure an introduction, but it is very helpful when an introduction doesn't spring instantly to mind.