Any audience decides within the first 60 seconds whether or not you have something interesting to say. After that, they zone out and it is difficult to win back their attention. This is why there is always so much emphasis on attention-grabbing openers.
Once you take up the stage, you need to establish a presence straight away. There is no time for slow introductions. If you watch some of the more successful speakers, you can notice how they utilize their first 60 seconds of stage time. All the experts are well-versed in the art of engaging the audience right off the bat.
An attention-grabbing introduction must check the following boxes:
- Grab the audience’s attention.
- Establish any credibility or relatability.
- Outline the thesis of the speech.
- Give the audience a reason to listen.
- Clear transition into the body of the speech.
Table of Contents
- 12 Attention Getters for Speeches
- Ask a Rhetorical Question
- Make a Bold Statement
- State the importance
- Use Humor
- Shocking Statistics or Facts
- Paint a Picture
- Give examples
- Everybody Loves a Good Story
- Use quotes
- Work on Your Delivery
- Bonus: Effective Transition
- What not to do:
- Wrapping up,
12 Attention Getters for Speeches
There is a misconception that floats around public speaking. Many people believe that their core material is sufficient to get the audience’s attention. However, without a solid introduction, chances are that the listener will already be distracted by the time you get to the main message. Public speaking is an art-form of persuasion and you will need to be aware of the technical aspects that make a great speech along with writing good content. Here are some attention getters that you can utilize for your introduction.
Ask a Rhetorical Question
Questions are always a good way to pique interest. We are automatically wired to respond to a question by either having a response in our minds or being curious to hear the answer. Either way, it keeps the audience active and listening for what’s coming next. This is also a great way to establish relatability. You could begin with something along the lines of “Have you ever wondered whether school uniforms are stifling creativity?” You might connect instantly with a large portion of the audience with a similar thought process. Similarly, something like, “Is religion a dying concept?” can make for a very intriguing beginning that might catch the interest of people on both sides of the argument.
Make a Bold Statement
Bold beginnings make for memorable and powerful speeches. No one can deny that the infamous “I have a dream!” left a mark on millions worldwide. A bold statement is your way to convey your passion, to stress the importance of an issue, and to instantly draw eyes. Pair a bold statement with the right body language, and you will be exuding the kind of power that is sure to make your presence noticeable. You can also go for shock-value statements that will keep your audience interested. Such as “I nearly died on my way here today.”
State the importance
Any topic you pick for your speech is likely important to you. As such, you might not feel like it needs further emphasizing. However, to the listener’s this is still a brand new subject. Highlighting why the issue you are covering needs to be heard will be a good way to win their attention. Any speech on environmental changes is overdone, but if you open by talking about the devastating effects and the immediate danger it poses to us, you can get them listening.
For example: “Pollution is running so rampant that people around the world are now consuming nearly 5 grams in plastic each week.” This statement, states the importance, makes it personal and makes the issue urgent.
Typically, mentioning the key highlights of the speech is done towards the end of the introduction. You can use this in conjunction with other attention-getters. All you need to do is dedicate the last few lines in your introduction to outlining the main points that will be addressed in your speech.
Humor is always an excellent ice-breaker. It breaks the tension and makes the audience feel more at ease. This is one of the best ways there is to make your audience comfortable. Once you get them laughing, they will be much more open to your message. However, this can go either way. You need to really know your audience to apply this well. If you make a joke and it falls flat, it can really hamper your stage confidence and derail the rest of your speech. Make sure you write jokes that are appropriate for the audience that you will address. There is no one-joke-fits-all in this scenario.
Depending on the setting, inside jokes are the best way to make the audience feel like they’re getting a personalized speech. Whether it is about an office incident or a particular teacher, a joke everyone is in on is always a good idea. However, if that isn’t the case then you can go to current events as something most people would be familiar with. Use it as an ice-breaker and follow it up with your main message with a smooth transition.
Shocking Statistics or Facts
Many people shy away from using statistics in their speeches. They believe it is boring and will take the audience out of the speech. However, when used right they can really shake things up. For example: “Did you know that about 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet?” or “Did you know that approximately 80.2 million people, aged six and older are physically inactive?” can help create intrigue. Once you surprise them, you create a space where you can emphasize the importance of your message. Make sure you strike a good balance of numbers so as to not overwhelm your audience either.
Perhaps the host will have already announced your credentials before you take up the stage. In case that they don’t, make sure to highlight any expertise you might have in a topic you are speaking about. Especially if you have worked for a number of years in a related field, it will add a lot of credibility to your words. Even if the host has mentioned it, you can highlight your expertise in a sentence or two in your introduction to get their attention.
Paint a Picture
Facts are good for a speech. It adds credibility and a sense of realness to your speech. However, too much data can make your speech seem boring. Instead, try to paint a picture with your words. Instead of having them decipher graphs and facts, you can give them a visual image or associate a relatable emotion with your abstract idea. Use directions like “imagine” or “picture this” followed by descriptive words. With a little creativity, this can work for virtually any speech topic. Instead of simply stating a problem such as “There are thousands of marine life losing their lives due to ocean pollution every day”, try “Imagine thousands of colorful species being slowly killed by their own ecosystem due to the rampant pollution we are causing.
Your job as the speaker is to make it as easy as possible for the audience to grasp your message. It is a good idea to include an example early on in your speech. Most people run over their main points and put in examples at the end. However, if you pair them immediately it will be easier for the audience to associate them.
Adding examples is also a great way to explore varying languages. It works hand-in-hand with painting a picture. You can utilize similes, metaphors, and adjectives to properly guide your audience. Remember that people will be more inclined to listen to things that they can relate to. This is why you should look to finding examples that are more personal for the audience.
Chances are, you are giving a speech amongst a line-up of speakers. As such, every speaker comes on stage with a question, example, or statistic. An interesting prop, can thus, act like a breath of fresh air for the audience. Whether it is a surprise prop that will keep the audience guessing or simply a demonstration to begin with. It will certainly pique interest and keep the audience watching.
Everybody Loves a Good Story
All good speeches take up the form of a story. It does not have to take up a “Once upon a time” format. You can pick a personal story to relate to your topic. Once you begin with a story, you will automatically get your audience curious about the next turn of events. Especially if your story is relatable one, it will create a stronger connection. Similarly, you can keep your audience’s attention throughout the speech with bits of your story. Keep the audience guessing by introducing twists and turns. This is not just a good tip for the introduction but also for the body of your speech.
Quotes are a great way to spice up your script. Especially if you can find quotes given by a famous person in a related field. They can add a certain gravitas to your words and help engage the audience. Make sure you double-check the source of the quote as you don’t want to misquote them either. Similarly, you don’t want to just quote someone for the sake of quoting. Make sure it matches the theme of your speech.
Work on Your Delivery
All of the above tips are highly effective, however, delivery also plays a vital role. If you deliver these tips with a monotone attitude, chances are the audience simply won’t catch on to these attention grabbers. Make sure you monitor your enthusiasm and put a lot of it into your introduction.
Your opening sets the tone for the rest of your speech, so you want to keep it upbeat. If you are looking at the floor, looking unsure and mumbling, you will lose credibility in the eyes of the audience. You need to project confidence so the audience feels like you have something to offer. Experiment with vocal variety, pitch, energy, and hand gestures. A good mix of all these elements will create the perfect attention-grabbing introduction for your speech.
How you deliver your first sentence is important to the impact you want to create. You want to stand out. If every speaker before you comes up with a question, by the time it gets to you, your audience will be completely over it. This is why personalized delivery can make you stand out. Here are a few delivery techniques you can experiment with:
A smile is a simple yet timelessly effective way to connect to your audience. It is a universal human gesture and will make the audience warm up to you. Not just for informal speeches but even for formal ones. Make sure to have a warm smile in your delivery rather than keeping a stoic demeaner.
Have you ever met those people who’s energy is simply infectious? Being around them just brings up your own mood. As the speaker, you command the stage. It is your job to direct the audience. This is why you can lead the enthusiasm by exuding it yourself.
People are automatically drawn to people they can relate to. If you are speaking about a relatable topic, make sure you talk about the relatability factor early. No matter what the topic is, you can find a common ground to connect on.
Acknowledge the audience:
Once you have your script and the preparation ready, you might be tempted to simply take up the stage and begin speaking at once. Believe it or not, this actually takes the audience away from the speech. Making it about them, making them feel like an important part of your speech will get them leaning in to listen.
Speak from your heart. You may have seen a lot of good speakers and naturally, you feel like picking up on their styles. However, audiences best respond to sprinkles of your own personality. So make sure, whatever style you try to incorporate, you don’t lose your honest touch.
These are just some of the ways you can grab the audience’s attention. You can pick one or more of these to make sure you maximize audience engagement. Public speaking is a subtle art and once you master it, it will become second nature to you. Content is king but your delivery, along with all these technical elements ensures your content actually reaches the listeners. The only thing left to do is practice.
Bonus: Effective Transition
As we discussed, an introduction has many roles to fulfill. One of them is to signal to the audience that the body of the speech has begun. To do so, you will need to incorporate an effective transition. Once you learn how to properly utilize these, your speech should flow smoothly from opening, body, to conclusion. Improper transitions can disrupt your natural flow and make your speech seem jumpy or choppy. If you’d like to up your transition game, you can browse our extensive coverage of Transitions in Public Speaking.
Your introduction is really only 10-15% of the total speech. Yet it can have a huge impact on audience engagement and impact. It needs to be long enough to check all the boxes of information that need to be relayed but at the same time short enough to keep it interesting. With the above tips and your awesome content, you will no doubt be able to craft something amazing.
What not to do:
While it is certainly a good idea to experiment, there are some things you should certainly avoid. Here are a few of them:
“The dictionary defines”
This trope is extremely overdone. Besides, people can simply google definitions. You want your speech to be authentic and interesting.
Hello, it’s me
While it is encouraged to establish credibility, try not to get carried away. You can alienate the audience if you seem like you’re bragging. Make sure your introduction is concise and relevant.
Unless you’re a naturally humorous person with jokes relevant to your topic, we recommend staying off jokes. Besides you want your message to be the center of your speech. If your joke doesn’t land in the intro itself, it is also likely to affect your confidence.
While welcoming the audience is typically recommended, spending your precious few introduction moments on salutations can be seen as a lack of creativity. You are much better off using this time to grab their attention and save the thank you’s for afterward.
On average, an audience member has but one question at the beginning of every speech, “Why should I care?” It is your responsibility as the speaker to answer this question and win over their attention. Whether it is by presenting shocking information, useful demonstration, entertaining presentation, or a persuasive performance, whichever best suits your style. Take a look at your script and try on the various attention-getters we’ve listed above. Test it out by recording and listening to yourself or having a friend listen to it. Make sure you don’t cut out any practice time. All the best!