Basics of Public Speaking
~ A Step by Step Guide to Successful Presentations ~

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Lesson 6 - Grab Your Audience's Attention!

Movies and TV shows usually begin with an exciting scene that captures our attention. Starting a presentation with a strong opening is just as useful. A good opening will get, and keep, the audience's attention. More than that, it will also prepare the audience to understand your topic. Here are five great ways to open a speech with power.

Start your speech with a question.

A question automatically gets the audience thinking of an answer. It is important to choose an interesting question that also leads in to your topic effectively. If your topic has something to do with music, a question such as "do you like music?" is not very effective. Most listeners will answer "Of course I love music". They may also think "Why are you asking such a stupid question?". Instead, you could ask something that challenges the audience: "What would you give to become a famous singer?" or "If you had the talent to be a professional musician, would you give up your present life?". Or, if your topic has to do with job interviewing techniques, you might not ask "Are you satisfied with your job?". Instead, a question such as "What would you do if you lost your job tomorrow?". That really gets the audience thinking!

Start your speech with an interesting fact or surprising statistic.

Today it's easy to cite an interesting fact or statistic. Do a little research on your topic and you will uncover some fascinating information that you can use in your speech. For example, you could begin by telling your audience that "the average person changes career five times during their lifetime". That will get the audience thinking about their own experiences - when did they last change jobs, when might they change jobs again, etc. After mentioning this fact, the audience will be more open to your presentation on job interviewing techniques.

Start your speech by describing a problem.

You should clearly and forcefully describe the problem. Everyone has problems and our first instinct when hearing about a problem is to start thinking about possible solutions. When you start with the problem, the audience is right there with you as you explain your favorite solution.

Or you could start your speech with a story.

A fourth powerful opening to your speech is to start with a story. When you describe something that happened to another person, in a situation that everyone can understand, the audience will experience some of the same thoughts and feelings of those people in those situations. There is one thing you have to be careful about however. Make sure that your story is short and to the point. Be brief - tell just enough to get the audience in the mood to hear your presentation.

Try starting some speeches with humor.

Using humor can be a bit dangerous for two reasons. First, what if you say something funny but nobody laughs? Don't let that stop you from trying! If you succeed with humor it will be a wonderful way to connect with the audience. If the audience does not laugh, often they don't even know you were joking -they often think it is just a story. All you have to do is move forward with the rest of your speech. The second reason it can be dangerous is because some speakers take too much time on an opening joke. As with stories, keep humor brief. It should be just enough to get the audience focused, then you can jump into your topic.

These techniques will make the openings of your presentations stronger and will guarantee that your audience listens carefully to your speech. Still, you have to keep their attention all the way to the end, which leads us to Lesson 7 - Memorable Conclusions.

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