Grab Your Audience From The Beginning

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?

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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

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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