College of Southern Idaho
Attention Getters



A Step-By-Step Approach


Beginning public speakers need to overcome the urge to vault to the front of the room and announce “hi I’m Pat and I’m going to talk about dragonflies.” This gives your audience 1.2 seconds to decide they already met you and they don’t care about dragonflies. This isn’t an ideal reaction. Rather, a public presentation needs to begin with some strategy for getting the attention of the audience and working us into the speech. We need to be intrigued by this attention-getting device and, because of it, willing to give you a few moments of our time. So, how do you do that? There are lots of ways to capture the attention of an audience, but here are a few of the most common:

1. Relay an anecdote

Start by telling us a story that directly relates to your speech. Stories are easy to listen to and human curiosity usually keeps people engaged long enough to work into the speech. Find a brief story (15-30 seconds for a 5-10 minute speech) relating to your topic that you can tell us at the very beginning of the speech.

2. Cite a startling fact or opinion

Sometimes a bit of intellectual “wow” is a good way to start a speech. Pick something we might not know, may even be surprised by, and offer that to us as a way to capture our attention. As a cavet, you're not going for 'scary' or 'uncomfortable' here. The purpose of the attention-getter should work us into the speech, not get us hung up on the opening statement.

3. Ask a question

Starting with a question generally guarantees that the audience will be engaged by offering an answer (either literally or rhetorically). If using a question, make sure you pause to give the audience a chance to let it sink in.  Offer a pause to your audience to let them think about the question you just asked.

4. Use a quotation

If someone famous or an expert on your topic has ever said something particularly profound about your topic, you may want to let him/her start the speech. Borrow his/her words (and give the author credit, of course) and allow this person to start the speech for you.

5. Build suspense through narrative

Use a bit of suspense to intrigue us. Many times audiences will stay with you as a speaker just to find out what you are really talking about. Work the audience into the actual topic with a bit of narrative set-up.


Check yourself: Look at the sample outline provided in class. Can you identify what the speaker uses as the attention getter and how it is represented on the outline?


Motivational Links