Your speech deserves all of the attention that it can get

Your speech deserves all of the attention that it can get
Image Credit: Gordon Ross

When we create a speech that we’ll be giving, we work hard to make it the best speech possible. We spend time thinking about what points we want to communicate to our audience, we pick the words that we’ll use with care, and we then practice just exactly how we’re going to go about delivering this speech. With all of that effort, you would think that every speech that we give would be a smashing success because we can make our audience understand the importance of public speaking. As we all know this is not the case – sometimes we just can’t get our audience to pay attention to what we are telling them. What’s a speaker to do?

It’s All About The Questions That You Ask

A speech is all about us getting up in front of an audience and then talking to them. This is very much a one-way sort of conversation. However, a smart presenter knows that it doesn’t have to be this way. All of us have the opportunity to use questions at the start of a speech in order to get our audience to feel as though they are involved in and a part of our speech. This is a simple and powerful technique that prevents our audience from just sitting back and not paying attention to us. However, if we really want to grab our audience’s attention, we have to ask our questions in the right way.

A fancy way to ask a question is called “chiasmus”. This technique is defined as being a rhetorical figure in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order, in the same or a modified form. A great example of this being used in a speech is John F. Kennedy’s speech in which he said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” When you use this technique to ask a question, you are going to have to be obvious so that your audience can appreciate what you are asking them.

Use The Preview Flashback To Grab Attention

When we give a speech, our audience has some expectations regarding how our speech is going to go. They expect us to start at the beginning, move to the middle, and then wrap things up in the end. If you deliver your speech in this way, you’ll be giving them what they expect and they may decide to not pay attention to you. What you need to do in order to grab their attention is to change things up on them.

One way to go about doing this is to use a flashback in your speech. A flashback occurs when you are telling your audience about something that happened to you. You then stop your story. You then go back in time and tell them another story about something else that happened. This second thing that you tell them about has to in some way impact the first story that you were telling them. Once you are done telling the second story, you can go forward in time to get back to your original story. Now you can finish telling this story and your audience will have a better understanding of what it all means.

Use The Words Of Others To Get Your Audience To Pay Attention

Let’s face it, during most of our speeches our audience doesn’t know who we are. They’ve never met us, don’t know anything about our background, and probably wouldn’t recognize us if they met us on the street. However, there is a way that we can lend some credibility to what we are in the process of telling them. If we use quotations in our speech, then it will be as if we had somehow invited other people to come up on stage with us and stand by our side as we talk to the audience.

All too often when we think about using a quote in a speech, we think that we have to go get a book from the library that has a collection of the sayings of famous people who lived in the past. It turns out that is not true. We can use quotes from any of our friends, from current celebrities, or from someone that people will recognize as being an authority. When using a quotation we do need to be careful to not make our quotes too long because then it will become hard for our audience to understand what we’re trying to communicate.

What All Of This Means For You

A speech that we give that does not capture and hold on to our audience’s attention won’t do us any good if we can’t share the benefits of public speaking with our audience. As speakers we want our audience to listen to us and to understand the message that we are trying to deliver to them. In order to make this happen we need to find a way to capture our audience’s attention and then hold on to it during our speech.

A great way to capture an audience’s attention is to start your speech out by asking them a question. This is a simple technique that allows your audience to feel as though they are involved in your speech. A fancy way of asking a question is to use the chiasmus method in which you repeat your question in reverse order. Another way to grab your audience’s attention is to use the preview flashback method. While you are telling them a story, stop and then go back in time to tell them another story. Once you wrap that one up, move forward in time and complete your original story which your audience will now understand even better. Finally, in order to add more credibility to your story, feel free to add quotations to your speech. Quotes don’t have to just come from famous people. Your friends and knowledgeable people will do fine also.

Every time we give a speech we want it to make an impact on our audience. We want the time, energy, and effort that we’ve put into the speech to result in an audience that has been changed in some way by listening to our speech. In order to make this happen, we need to find a way to grab our audience’s attention at the start of our speech. Using questions, playing games with flashbacks, and adding quotations to our speech are all techniques that we can easily use to make sure that our next audience pays attention to what we have to tell them.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that there is a limit to the number of quotations that you should add to a speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

How often when you get up in front of an audience do you find yourself addressing a room full of people that you don’t know. For that matter, the people that you are talking to probably don’t know you. It sure seems like one of the first things that you need to be doing as a speaker because you understand the importance of public speaking is taking just a moment to get things started off on the right foot. How about an introduction? Now comes the tricky part – what’s the right way to go about introducing yourself to your audience?

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Grab Your Audience From The Beginning

by drjim on September 11, 2018

You want to grab your audience's attention at the start of your speech

You want to grab your audience’s attention at the start of your speech
Image Credit: Rutger Tuller

So what makes a speech a good speech? I think that we can all agree that one of the most important things that we need to be able to do is both capture and hold on to our audience’s attention in order to show them the importance of public speaking. Although this may sound like a simple thing to do, it turns out that it’s actually quite difficult to do. We may be able to so some sort of crazy thing at the start of our speech that will cause our audience to stop what they are doing and take notice of us, but that’s not going to be enough to hold their attention. What we need are some strategies that we can use to make our audience want to pay attention to our speech.

Using Visual Humor

As we all know, humor can be a very powerful tool. Everyone wants to laugh and if you can show your audience that you are a person who can make them laugh, then you will have a way to capture their attention. When you choose to use visual humor as a way to start a speech, you will need to focus on how you display the item to your audience. Suddenly showing something to your audience will be unexpected. The item itself may be inherently funny. What you do with the item after revealing it may produce an unexpected sight gag (did you put it on your head?). You’ll be able to grab your audience’s attention if you can create an air of suspense about what you’ll be doing next with your prop.

As powerful as visual humor may be, as speakers we need to keep in mind that it can be difficult to work with. When you decide to use visual humor, you are going to want to be thought provoking and there is a fine line between this and being offensive. Your sense of humor may not be shared by your audience and they may not understand your visual humor. Additionally, you have to be confident when you use visual humor – if you are uncertain then your audience may start to become uncomfortable.

Use A Demonstration To Grab Attention

Sometimes when we want to grab our audience’s attention, we need to start things off in our speech with a demonstration. More often than not, we’ll end up using some sort of prop for a demonstration, but if needed, words by themselves will do just fine. You have a great deal of power when you are using a demonstration. You can make up statistics to support whatever point you are trying to make and you can use any visual humor that supports your demonstration. What you want to happen is for your audience to experience your main idea and then be ready to listen to the rest of your speech.

Just like any other attention getting device that you choose to use in your speech, you are going to have to be careful when it comes to using a demonstration. The beginning of a speech is such a critical time that attempting to use props can cause a number of problems. No matter how many times you practice what you want to say, there is the chance that you’ll become nervous during your speech and you’ll make mistakes and screw up your demonstration and cause it to go badly or go too long.

Comparisons Can Capture An Audience

As speakers, the most powerful tool that we have when we are up on a stage are the words that we use. One powerful tool that we can use with our words is a comparison: where we compare one thing to another. When we use a comparison, we are helping our audience to more quickly understand ideas that can be complex or abstract. We do this by taking the thing that they may not fully understand and comparing it to something that they do understand. The result of this is to create interest and intrigue.

Although a comparison can be a powerful tool, it is also possible that as speakers we can end up taking them too far. We need to be careful to not to try to include too many comparisons into a single speech. We also have to understand that if we try to compare two items that don’t really compare well, then it’s just going to end making our speech that much weaker.

What All Of This Means For You

As long as you are going to be willing to give a speech, you sure would like your audience to experience the benefits of public speaking and listen to what you have to say. In order for that to happen, you are going to have to grab their attention at the beginning of your speech and find a way to hold on to it. If you can’t do this, then you can give the best speech in the world, but nobody will be listening.

In order to grab your audience’s attention at the start of your speech, you may want to consider using visual humor. This will require you to bring a prop along with you on stage. At some point in time you will reveal it to your audience and with a little luck you’ll make them laugh. You need to be careful because your sense of humor may be different from that of your audience and that could cause your visual humor to misfire. Another way to start a speech is with a demonstration. This is when you may use a prop to show your audience something that will allow them to feel what you are saying. Be careful how you use a demonstration because it could adversely affect your speech. Finally, in order to communicate an abstract or complex idea to your audience you can use a comparison between it and something that they already know. However, you have to be careful to make sure that the comparison is understandable or you’ll lose your audience.

Starting a speech off correctly is the key to delivering a successful speech. As speakers we need to grab onto and hold onto our audience’s attention as quickly as possible in order to make sure that they will pay attention to what we are saying during our speech. There are a number of different ways to get an audience’s attention. We need to take a careful look at the speech that we will be giving and pick the right way to get and hold our audience’s attention.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: If you choose to use a demonstration during your speech, should you use it at the beginning?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Communicator Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Communicator Newsletter are now available. Subscribe now: Click Here!
 
Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we create a speech that we’ll be giving, we work hard to make it the best speech possible. We spend time thinking about what points we want to communicate to our audience, we pick the words that we’ll use with care, and we then practice just exactly how we’re going to go about delivering this speech. With all of that effort, you would think that every speech that we give would be a smashing success because we can make our audience understand the importance of public speaking. As we all know this is not the case – sometimes we just can’t get our audience to pay attention to what we are telling them. What’s a speaker to do?

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