The beginning of a speech should grab the audience’s attention. Attention getting devices –also known as attention getters –are designed to capture your audience’s attention in the first sentence of your speech. Engage your audience through relatable and relevant content. Try using an anecdote, quote, or statistic to peak your audience’s interest. What can you say in your opening that is relevant and interesting?
For significant events or ceremonies, it may be effective to begin your introduction by describing the audience or occasion. Referencing the audience is only effective when all audience members share a common identity (“as college students, we are all familiar with…”). For special occasions—such as weddings, funerals, or award ceremonies— reminding the audience of the meaning behind the event can bring them together and boost your credibility.
Make sure to select a device that is appropriate for your audience, occasion, and topic.
How do I use an anecdote?
Personal anecdote—This story describes your personal experience with the topic. For example, if you are speaking to college freshmen about time management, you may share some of your own struggles and successes as a freshman.
Historical anecdote—This story describes a historical event. A historical example can refer back to a specific time or event for comparison or inspiration. For example, if your topic is related to the education system, you may refer to historical examples of the founding of certain schools or universities.
Hypothetical example—This device asks your audience to envision a scenario as if it were happening to them. This can be accomplished with a hypothetical situation (“imagine that you are walking through the forest”), or with an anecdote (“imagine that you are Sam, a forest ranger in Alaska”).
How do I use a quote?
“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Avoid quotes that are irrelevant, inappropriate, unethical, or misleading, and always remember to cite your sources.
What is a surprising statement?
According to Magnetics Speaking, a public speaking consultation company, “Fear of public speaking has 10% impairment on your wages & 15% impairment on your promotion” (Khoury, n.d.).
How do I use a question?
Rhetorical question— Rhetorical questions are designed to make your audience consider your argument, and do not elicit a response.
Overt-response question— Overt-response questions are questions designed to elicit a response from your audience.
Polls—These questions poll your audience (“raise your hand if…”).
Free-response—These questions are less commonly used, but may be appropriate for some contexts. Classroom lectures, for example, frequently use free-response questions as a way to encourage student participation.
Can I use humor?
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than delivering the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld
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