A student in my college speech shared a childhood story with the students. He was eight years old and living in a wooded area in central Florida. The student’s parents decided to go shopping and would not be back until later in the day. The boy was home alone with a friend who came by […]
A student in my college speech shared a childhood story with the students. He was eight years old and living in a wooded area in central Florida. The student’s parents decided to go shopping and would not be back until later in the day. The boy was home alone with a friend who came by to visit. They decided that this was their opportunity to play with matches. He climbed up to the kitchen cabinet and found a box of matches. With great excitement they rushed out to the back yard. They gathered a few weeds into a pile on the lawn and lit the weeds on fire. They enjoyed the flame of the fire and decided to build another pile of weeds. The second time was also a thrill for the boys. The two boys decided to build one more pile of weeds to light on fire. They built a larger pile of weeds and lit the fire. One of the weeds sparked and flew into some weeds beyond the lawn area. Soon the weeds behind the back yard were on fire. As you all know with dried weeds, a fire moves very quickly. The fire soon lit up the entire property behind the lawn and then spread to the forest. Soon the boys could hear the sirens of police cars and fire engines. The boys realized that they were in a lot of trouble. The student said that he realized what Smokey the Bear said about never playing with matches was true. He learned a hard lesson– never play with matches.
After this attention getting story, the student shared with us his speech topic- preserving and protecting our national forests. The story captured the attention of all the members of the class. Without an attention getter, this audience would not have been as attentive and more than likely would be surfing through messages on their cell phone. There are several great strategies for grabbing the attention of an audience for a speech. Keep in mind the following:
First, the first few second are critical. Researchers have found that the first seven to ten seconds are critical for a speaker. If you don’t have the attention of the audience in the first few seconds, you will not be as successful with the rest of your speech.
Second, don’t bore your audience. Many speakers fail to gain the attention of their audience by beginning the speech with “My topic today is . . .” or “My name is . . .” Always begin with an attention getting story, statistics or illustration.
Third, don’t apologize to the audience. I have listened to several speaker turn off an audience with the following statement at the beginning of a speech: “I didn’t prepare anything but I’m going to speak anyway.”
Fourth, pause a moment before beginning the speech. Take a moment to review your outline. A short pause gives the audience time to focus in on you as the speaker.
Fifth, avoid irrelevant humor. I heard a speech that was delivered to a group of educators. The speaker shared a funny fishing story. We all laughed and the speaker continued on with his presentation. There was no connection between the story and the rest of the speech. The audience, a group of educators struggled to make the connection between the fishing story and the body of the speech. But in the end there was no connection. The speaker was trying to break the ice with the use of humor. If you are going to share humor, make it relevant to the speech topic.
Sixth, don’t begin a speech with a direct question. If you use a direct question, you might get the wrong answer. It’s better to ask a rhetorical question.
Olympic downhill skiiers who have a great beginning, always finish well. Make sure your speech grabs the atttention of your audience in the beginning of your presentation so you can also experience a strong finish.