Arguably, the hardest part of writing a speech is coming up with the perfect hook. The first sentence that comes out of your mouth sets the tone for everything that's going to follow. You need to pack the first few lines with attention getters to make your speech immediately engaging to the audience.
But you don't have to be inherently good at oration like Cicero or Martin Luther King Jr. Instead, you can use these clever tactics to rock your speech from start to finish.
Effective Ways to Grab an Audience's Attention for a Speech
No two orators have the same methods, so no two speeches should start the same way. Don't be afraid to experiment with different ideas to see which one resonates the most with your topic and delivery style.
All beginners have to start somewhere, and these are some tried-and-true proven ways to grab an audience's attention right away:
1.Start With a Powerful Question
Asking a thought-provoking question can stimulate your audience's curiosity and get them feeling interested in hearing what you plan to follow up with.
2. Use Humor to Break the Tension
Lighthearted jokes or funny anecdotes can warm up the audience by breaking the tension. After a little laugh, they'll probably be more receptive to whatever your message is.
3. Open With an Interesting Statistic
An unexpected or shocking statistic can spark interest and emphasize a major selling point of your topic. Simple stats can also be very punchy, so they make a big impact.
4. Tell a Story
Humans love a narrative, so you can start with a personal or relevant story that makes connections to the various points of your speech in an indirect way.
5. Use a Visual Element
Incorporating graphics, videos, props, or diagrams can add a new dimension to your speech and keep your audience's short attention span locked on you.
6. Quote a Famous Person
One way to open your speech is with an impactful quote from a respected figure to lend authority to your argument or topic.
7. Incorporate Interactive Features
Polls, question-and-answer sessions, or requesting audience members to share their experiences can keep your audience involved. You know what they say - idle hands are the devil's workshop.
8. Challenge Common Beliefs
Stating a contrary opinion or debunking a common myth can be an electric way to get the audience engaged.
9. Use Powerful and Emotive Language
This can draw people in and help them connect with your message on an emotional level. After all, there's a reason one of Cicero's branches of rhetoric is pathos.
10. Relate to your Audience
People like to listen to stuff they relate to, so you can start with a few examples or scenarios that are relatable to your audience's experience.
11. Use Sound Effects or Music
Audio elements can make your presentation more dynamic and memorable. It's hard to look away from a light show or someone sauntering up to the stage with a theme song.
12. Incorporate Physical Activity
Asking your audience to stand up, high five their neighbor, or do a simple exercise can re-energize them. This is especially useful if you're in a group of speeches and need to get the audience to reconnect with you.
13. Pose a Hypothetical Scenario
Paint a picture of a possible future or situation and you can pique your audience's interest.
14. Show Your Passion
Audiences tend to pay attention when speakers display genuine enthusiasm and conviction about their topic, so don't be afraid to get passionate. Inflect in your phrases and let your facial expressions run wild.
15. Surprise Your Audience
Doing something unexpected can break the routine and instantly grab the group's attention.
Examples of Attention-Grabbing Phrases to Open a Speech
It's all good and well to know different methods for crafting your intro, but that doesn't magically help with putting the words together. Don't panic. We've got a whole host of attention-grabbing phrases you can use to open any speech with.
- "Imagine if you could..."
- "I'm going to reveal a secret that most experts don't want you to know."
- "How many of you have ever experienced..."
- "Let me start with an alarming fact..."
- "Raise your hand if you believe..."
- "Remember when you were a child and you believed in..."
- "Here's a shocking statistic that will make your hair stand on end..."
- "What if I told you that..."
- "Let's take a journey back in time to..."
- "I have a confession to make..."
- "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."
- "Picture this..."
- "I bet you're wondering why I'm here today..."
- "Let me tell you a story..."
- "I was in your shoes once, and then something extraordinary happened..."
- "There's an old saying that goes..."
- "Have you ever thought about why..."
- "Did you know that..."
- "Who here thinks they know what it's like to..."
- "It might sound crazy, but..."
- "Has anyone in here ever..."
- "Every second we waste, someone in the world is..."
- "I want to share with you a life-changing experience I had..."
- "When you wake up in the morning, do you ever feel..."
- "We are standing on the precipice of..."
- "There's a truth that no one talks about, and it's this..."
- "Let's take a moment to reflect on..."
- "The first time I ever experienced..."
- "Who here is brave enough to admit..."
- "Before we get started, I want to ask everyone a question..."
Use a Good Hook for a Successful Speech
People usually think about the mic drop moment towards the end of the speech and leave the opening bit for minutes before they go on. But reciting a speech isn't like performing open mic night at the comedy club.
You need a good hook to reel the audience in, and which one you use will depend on your audience, your topic, and what you want people to take away from your speech. The long and the short of it is, you might be able to procrastinate on writing your speech, but you probably don't want to leave the opener 'til last minute.