Public Speaking: Four Attention-Getters to Start Your Presentation

Speaking Tips – Open With One of These Attention Getters

It is important in your public speaking to quickly capture the minds of your audience. While your audience will no doubt want you to do well as a speaker, their minds are still milling about as you begin your presentation. Here are six ways to grab hold of the group’s attention.

1. Ask a question and let the audience members answer each other.

While many speaking coaches will advise you to ask hypothetical questions of your audience, it is good to begin a speech with a question that the audience will actually answer.

As an example, during a recent parenting storytelling-techniques workshop I was presenting, I asked the audience, “Do you remember being told any stories when you were a child?” Then, I had them turn to another participant and share that memory with others. This creates an instant icebreaker for the workshop participants. You will also find that the audience will frequently comment about this question directly with you after the presentation.

2. Sing.

If you can carry a tune, sing a brief piece of a common song, hymn or jingle that connects directly with the subject you will be discussing. Use this short tune repeatedly as a transition between points in your presentation.

3. Tell a story.

Skip the old jokes and tell a story. A story has a beginning, middle and end. Research the numerous world folktales and fables that are available to you via the Internet and choose one that helps to clarify your subject. Reflect through your own experiences and find anecdotes that you can use to create a story. Storytelling tip: be focused and concise in your story and avoid rambling.

4. Use artwork.

Great art inspires people to think differently about your speaking subject. Find a painting, sculpture or photograph that reflects your content. With a bit of research, you can find out more about the art and use that information to kick-off the connection to your discussion. For times when you are speaking to the same group for multiple days, ask the participants to come back to the sessions with their own art as well.

5. Use a barrage of facts.

Thoroughly research your subject to find facts and quotes that demonstrate your point. At the start of your speech, speak these short illustrations in quick succession, laying a foundation in your listeners’ minds that you will build upon as you speak.

6. Use a prop.

What can you bring up with you to the stage that initially seems completely out of place? Once, during a youth leadership conference, I dragged an eight-foot long piece of wood up to the front of the room. I announced that I came “with my two by four” to speak about how leadership was not something adults practiced “at” youth but rather was done “with, to, by and for” young people. I held on to that piece of wood throughout the presentation as the audience learned to say with me, “with, to, by, for” whenever I prompted them. Both the content of that speech and the image of me with a huge board in my hand were talked about for many years.

These six tips give you some ideas to help you stand out in your next presentations. Storytelling techniques, public speaking training and your own imagination may help you create your own attention grabbers as well, tailored for each audience.

The author, Sean Buvala, has been speaking about and coaching clients in the use of storytelling techniques since 1986. Hundreds of companies across many industries and thousands of people have experienced his work as a coach. He is the executive director of, an award-winning storyteller and an in-demand public speaker. Sean is based in Arizona where his wife says he’s a great cook.

For more information about Sean’s two-day workshop that teaches you to harness the power of business or corporate storytelling, please visit our website at

June 1, 2013 • Posted in: Articles, Tips and Hints