An attention getter is a tool used at the very beginning of a presentation with the intention of engaging one’s audience. There are several different types of effective attention getters, so it’s up to the speaker to determine the best fit for their presentation based on a variety of factors. When selecting an attention getter, it may be helpful to ask yourself these questions:
- What is appropriate for the occasion?
- Who will be in my audience?
- What is the purpose of this presentation (persuade, inform, celebrate)?
- What am I comfortable with?
As you read on, keep these questions in mind. Doing so will allow you to select the right attention getter for your presentation. To learn more about how to bring your attention getter full circle in your conclusion, click here. Below are the types of attention getters that we recommend:
A question is a great way to spark the audience’s attention by getting them involved right away. Your question can be directly or indirectly related to your topic. A critical component of asking a question, though, is indicating to your audience whether or not you’d like them to respond nonverbally. Failure to do so may result in audience members getting confused or becoming a distraction. You may lead into a question with a phrase such as “By a show of hands…” or “Take a moment and ask yourself…”. Whether or not you’d like your audience to engage with the question, we discourage allowing audience members to verbally respond. Doing so runs the risk of an audience member taking over your precious speaking time!
You can also begin your speech by telling your audience a short story. A story is a great way to engage with and relate to the audience right off the bat. It can be a personal story, a story you read about, a fable, a well-known children’s story, etc. If you’re struggling to come up with an engaging story, you may ask your audience to picture a hypothetical situation. This gives you the opportunity to set the scene and use descriptive language to illustrate the tale. Consider opening the speech with a story, building up tension to a critical point, and then pausing mid-story to begin the speech. Then, revisit the story in the closure and share the ending. When done correctly, this tactic will have the audience hanging on your every word.
A statistic or startling fact is a great way to arouse curiosity and surprise your audience. Be sure to keep the statistic relevant to your topic and don't reveal too much information before you actually begin the content of your speech. To ensure as much audience engagement as possible, choose a fact that is lesser-known.
Reminder: Consider waiting until you’ve developed your entire speech before creating an attention getter. While it may seem logical to start with writing an attention getter, it’s often easier to save it till the very end.
Prepared by GVSU Speech Lab Consultants & Carl J. Brown
Information partially adapted from Stephen Lucas' The Art of Public Speaking, Tenth Edition.