Getting Your Speech The Attention That It Deserves

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 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?