Grabbing the Audience's Attention: Methods & Tips

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  • 0:01 Attention-Getting Devices
  • 0:34 The Role of the…
  • 3:25 Stories, Statements,…
  • 5:40 Quotes, Questions, and…
  • 7:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathryn Jackson

Cat has taught a variety of subjects, including communications, mathematics, and technology. Cat has a master's degree in education and is currently working on her Ph.D.

Attention getting devices are a good way to start your speech, capture the audience's attention, and give a good first impression. This lesson discusses the different types of attention getting devices.

Attention-Getting Devices

Megan is creating a persuasive speech about becoming a volunteer for a staff development meeting. She wants to encourage her coworkers and her supervisor to do more volunteering in the community. After creating the main points of her speech, Megan is now working on her introduction.

The first thing Megan will need in her introduction is an attention-grabbing device, most commonly known as an attention getter. In this lesson, you'll learn about the role of the attention getter and the types of attention getters.

The Role of the Attention Getter

An attention getter is the opening statement in a speech that the speaker uses to engage the audience in the remaining content of the speech. An attention getter does just as the name implies: it gets the attention of the audience. An attention getter can be either funny or serious, depending on the appropriate tone of your speech.

Often, people that are new to public speaking will resort to using something startling to get the audience's attention. This isn't a bad strategy, but unfortunately, many people new at public speaking will simply use something that is startling, but that doesn't have any relation to the speech. An attention-getting device that's startling will certainly get the audience's attention, but it will leave the audience in confusion for the rest of the speech. This is because the audience will be trying to make the connection between the attention getter and the speech topic. You have to make sure that the attention-getting device you use is relevant to the speech so that it can do its job properly.

Another common mistake is to make obvious and unnecessary statements. Some individuals find it necessary to state their name at the beginning of a speech: 'Hi, my name is Megan and today I'm going to tell you about volunteering.'

This doesn't work as an effective attention getter. First, unless the audience is unfamiliar with who you are, it isn't necessary to repeat your name at the beginning of each speech. In this situation, Megan's coworkers know who she is because they work with her on a daily basis. Second, the audience knows that you are going to talk to them about something, this also does not get their attention effectively. Also, avoid using phrases like, 'I'm going to tell you about…,' in the attention getter. This may be acceptable in the topic reveal, but this isn't the role of the attention getter.

Remember that the attention getter isn't your entire introduction. Many speakers get excited about a particular attention getter, usually a story or a video that they want to share during the speech. As a general rule, your attention getter should not be longer than 45 seconds in your speech. Really, your attention getter and introduction should be proportionate to the rest of your speech. The longer your speech, the longer your introduction. Don't forget that you will have about 30 seconds to make your first impression. You don't want to bore your audience with a long attention getter or confuse them because they aren't sure where the speech is going!

Now that you understand the role of the attention getter, how do you go about getting the audience's attention? There are many types of attention getters that you can use. You can tell a story, make a shocking statement or talk about shocking statistics, use testimony from someone that is connected to the topic of the speech, cite an interesting quote that relates to the topic, ask the audience a question, or use a non-verbal attention-getting device.

Stories, Statements, Statistics, and Testimonies

Stories, statements, statistics and testimonies are all good attention-getting devices. Let's look at how each of these can be used in the context of Megan's speech on volunteering.

A story, or anecdote, can be used as a way of relating the audience to the content of the speech. For example, Megan found a story called the 'Keeper of the Spring' about an old man that cleaned up a spring for a village. After many years, the council decided to stop paying for the old man to clean up the spring. After a while, a happy and prosperous village became a dirty, sickly village because the water from the spring was dirty and sickly. Megan can use this story to demonstrate how much one person - one volunteer - can make a huge difference in a community.

Another way you can get the attention of your audience is to use a shocking statement or statistic. For example, a shocking statement for Megan's speech may be, 'There is a way to reduce your stress, increase your happiness, learn new skills, and even earn an education stipend of $1,200. What's the secret? Volunteering!'

Another example of a shocking statement is, 'Right now, one of the most valuable resources in the United States has hit its lowest in 10 years. It isn't petroleum or water, I'm talking about volunteers.'

An example of a shocking statistic may be, 'In 2013, fewer individuals with a bachelor's degree or higher education decided to dedicate their time volunteering. In fact, according to the U.S. News & World Report article in February 2014, volunteering declined in this demographic by nearly 1 million people.'

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