Start at the Very Beginning, A Very Good Place to Start 124 Speech of the Devil For generations, speakers have opened their presentations with "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen." Open- ings like this are usually fluff. Unless you feel compelled to include it or you feel that your audience will be appalled by its absence, skip it and get right to the real opening of your speech. Sex, Lies, and Videotapes If you have the resources, videotapes and other equally sophisticated audio-visual materials can make great openings. In this age of visual images, the old saying "A picture is worth a thousand words" is more valid than ever before. Clips from old movies make especially good openings. (Some speakers are uneasy about relying on visual aids because of possible technical problems, a problem that's covered in Chapter 25, "A Thousand Words: Visual Aids.") Laugh In Class Act Sharing a personal experience, giving some biographical information, praising the audience, and using defi- nitions are some other effective ways to open your speeches. Remember to pick the method that suits you, your audience, and your purpose. Humor is an excellent way to relax both the audience and yourself. It serves to plunge your listeners right into the topic while simultaneously establishing instant rapport. Humor is also a nonthreatening way to get to a moral or lesson. But if you decide to open with a joke, be very sure that it is appropriate to the occasion. Remember, few things are as painful as a joke poorly told. Always stay away from ethnic, racist, and religious jokes (no priests, rabbis, and ministers in rowboats, please). See Chapter 18, "Ever Hear the One About?: Using Humor," for a detailed discussion of using humor appropriately. Whatever type of introduction you use, keep it short. After all, you're dealing with your introduction, not the body of your speech. The introduction or opening hook should be no more than 1­2 minutes long. That's allowing 1 minute for a formal greeting (if you must have one) and 2 minutes for the "grabber." The Least You Need to Know · Open your speech with a bang by using a method suitable to your audience, topic, and purpose. · Possible openings include anecdotes, questions, a reference to the setting or occasion, and quotations. · You can also use statistics or dates, media, or humor.