Public speaking might be nerve-wracking. Apart from preparing the information itself and making an outline, you also need to structure it so it won’t get boring and will catch your audience’s attention.
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The presentation of your information is as important as the information itself. So, to grab your audience’s attention, you should start with a catchy hook. The hook is the only possibility to make your listener interested in what you say, so do not start with a simple greeting and a self-introduction.
In this article, you’ll find nine attention getters for speeches based on the top TED Talks. You’ll learn how to write good hooks for speeches. You’ll also find the six worst speech introductions to avoid. Let’s get started!
🙋 1. Talk about Yourself
One of the good ways to make your audience interested in you is to be honest and sincere. Telling your listener about yourself can make them relate to your more. Share your experience with them.
Here’s a speech by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Play, Love, where she chooses to talk about herself at the beginning of her speech. She is talking about her passion which is writing. She made her performance enjoyable to listen to by making a connection to the audience this way.
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Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius
📰 2. Tell a Story
Telling a story is also one of the good hooks for speeches. You can make your audience resonate with you or relate to you by telling a sincere story. If you let your reader know more about you by talking about your experience, they will pay attention to what you say.
The following is a speech by Bill Gates, where he used a story from his childhood as an attention grabber. In this speech, he talks about his fear of nuclear war and how his family would hide in the barrel in case of attack.
Bill Gates: The next outbreak? We’re not ready
Next speech is by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a famous Nigerian author. She also uses a story as an opener for her presentation. Her story is about how she learned how to read at a very young age
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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story
❔ 3. Ask a Question
Asking your audience a question is also one of the best strategies to begin your performance. By asking a question, you can make your listener involved and set the directions for their thoughts.
In the following speech, Simon Sinek asks the audience an exciting question that immediately grabs their attention: How do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions?
Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action
💪 4. Make a Strong Statement
Another option is to grab your audience’s attention by making a strong statement. A solid, exciting statement can make your listeners engaged and persuade them to listen to you. Usually, a strong opening statement is followed by a question too.
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You can take a look at the speech by Julian Treasure, a leading TED speaker. He makes an interesting statement about the human’s voice, comparing it to some instrument. Later, he asks his audience a question to make them think about his topic.
Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen
📊 5. Provide Impressive Statistics
Impressive statistics might also be one of the attention-getters for speeches. Think of a statistic that impressed you when you first came across it. Then, try to avoid using simple numbers. Instead, you can compare the numbers with something else. For example, instead of saying that you spend 8 hours online a day, you can say that you spend a whole working day online.
It is crucial to choose a statistic that would be interesting to both a speaker and the audience.
The following is a speech by Robert Waldinger, a Harvard professor of psychiatry, about happiness. He begins his speech by stating the results of a survey. In that survey, millennials were asked about their life goals.
Robert Waldinger: What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness
😅 6. Use Humor
Humor is another good way to catch the attention. Although your speech might be about a serious and formal topic, you can say something funny in the beginning. However, it would be best to be extremely careful because your joke might be offensive to someone. So, try to make a joke on a neutral topic.
Here’s a speech by Pamela Meyer on how to spot a liar. She begins her speech by making a joke about how everyone is a liar. Her joke is engaging and makes the audience curious about what else she has to say.
Pamela Meyer: How to spot a liar
🖖 7. Be Interactive
What can be more engaging than actually asking your audience to do something? Your audience will pay all their attention to you if you make them interact with you. You can ask your listeners to raise their hands by asking a question.
The following speech is by Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist and Stanford lecturer, on how to make stress your friend. At the beginning of her speech, Kelly asks her audience to raise their hands if they experienced stress during the past year.
Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend
The following speech is by Celeste Headlee on ten ways to have a better conversation. In her speech, she asks her audience to raise their hands if they have unfriended someone because of an offensive conversation topic.
Celeste Headlee: 10 ways to have a better conversation
🤯 8. Shock the Audience
Some people use the method of shocking their audience to catch their attention. You can do something your listeners do not expect. For example, you can say goodbye at the beginning of your speech or change your clothes. These actions will catch everyone’s attention, but they will only work if the topic is suitable.
In this TED Talk on how schools kill creativity by Sir Ken Robinson, he makes an unexpected move by saying that he is leaving right after saying hello to his audience.
Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?
The following speech is by Cameron Russell on how appearance is not everything. She changed her clothes on the stage as she was opening her speech.
Cameron Russell: Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.
🌈 9. Use a Colorful Comparison
If you are still wondering how to start a speech, a colorful comparison might be a good option. You can use a metaphor, symbol, or another figure of speechto deliver your thought in a catchy way.
Here is a speech by Dan Gilbert on the science of happiness. In his hook, he compares two perspectives on two million years. By making this comparison, he can control the audience’s thoughts, making them think about his words.
Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness
❌ Bonus: the 6 Worst Ways to Start a Speech
As we have learned different attention-getting techniques, let’s take a look at a list of things to avoid while starting a speech.
|Improvise||No matter how much time you have to prepare, try to use it wisely. Even if you only have half an hour to prepare, make use of any minute you have to outline, think of a structure, and a good hook to catch your audience’s attention.|
|Don’t check the tech||Technical difficulties are something we cannot control. However, we can do everything possible and check the tech in advance. Try to arrive at the place you are giving your speech early to check that everything is working correctly.|
|Apologize||Apologizing can only draw attention to the issue that your audience might not have even noticed. So, try to ignore anything you are struggling with and focus on your speech. If you feel the need to apologize for something obvious, you can reverse it the way you can express your gratitude rather than being sorry.|
|Make an offensive joke||Making a joke is an excellent way to start your speech off. However, your joke has to be ethical. Do not think of your audience as of your friend with whom you can talk about anything. Treat your audience with as much respect as possible.|
|Ask the audience to turn off their cell phones||Instead of asking your audience to turn off their cell phones, try to focus on making your speech interesting and engaging so that your audience wouldn’t want to distract themselves with their cell phones.|
|Introduce yourself||Do not say your name because your audience should already know it. Leave your introduction to the person who organizes the event.|
We hope the tips above will help you get ready for your performance. If you haven’t yet decided what topic to choose for your speech, feel free to use our generator to get ideas. The tool is able to make topics not only for essays, but also for speeches.
❓ How to Start a Speech: FAQ
How to start a speech for school?
To start an in-class speech for students, you can talk about yourself or tell a personal story. By telling your audience a story about yourself, you can engage them. An engaged audience pays attention to what you say. Another way is to start your speech with a quote. You can also search for some samples to gain inspiration.
How to start an informative speech?
To start off an informative speech, you should have a catchy hook. You can try asking your audience a question or sharing your experience. After you are done with an attention grabber, you can state your thesis and move to your main points.
How to start a persuasive speech?
Start your persuasive speech with a catchy hook. You may use a quote, a joke, a story, or any other attention grabbers. A good option is to make a question to make your audience think about your topic. If you have enough information, you can also show an impressive statistic related to your topic.
How to start a motivational speech?
You can start your motivational speech by asking your audience a question or asking them to do something. It can engage them and make them interested in what you are trying to say. Another option to engage your audience is to create a joke or to tell a story about yourself.