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Public Speaking Know How
Public Speaking Know How
Snag the fish and reel ‘em in
Public Speaking Attention-Getters
Fishing is one of those activities that’s considered a sport and a pastime. Whether you’re looking to win a tournament or simply enjoy the sunshine, both require patience and forethought.
As you begin to plan for a day of fishing, some things to consider might include scouting for the right fishing hole, organizing the fishing equipment, and figuring out what the fish are biting (bait). But, being able to snatch a fish ‘plum out of the water’ before it even has a chance to bite, that takes some talent.
It’s the first season’s first episode of the Andy Griffith Show. Aunt Bee isn’t much on fishin’ but Sheriff Andy Taylor wants to introduce his son Opie to Aunt Bee as more than just somebody to help around that house after his momma passed away, but as a friend and experienced fisherman.
While at the pond, Opie asks, “Paw, if she’s such a great fisherman like you’ve been telling me, how come she’s fishin’ with her bait out of the water?” Taylor explains that Aunt Bee is used to deep sea fishin’. He said, deep sea fish like porpoises and such jump out of the water and “come up and meet your pole half-way”.
Wouldn’t it be somethin’ if we could snag our audience without applying actual bait to the hook? That’s the intention of attention-getters. The ability to jiggle the line just enough to snag the fish. It’s a task speaker’s toil in as they prepare opening remarks.
There are four components required in the introduction of the speech. They include an attention-getter, establishing credibility, revealing the topic, and having a preview statement. For now, we’re exploring five different attention-getters speakers may use to get the audience hooked.
Grabbing the audience’ attention is challenging, no doubt. It’s the first impression the audience has of your ability to capture their interest. For those that have busy schedules, time is valuable and there’s no time to waste listening to a speaker without a good opening line.
Writers have a similar dilemma. They have to jiggle the line for the reader’s attention within the first few paragraphs or pages or lose them. With every article, book, or speech written, if the author doesn’t find a way to bait the audience into wanting more, you’re fish bait. For student speeches, there are five suggestions the speaker may use to grab the attention of the audience.
The first is to state the importance of your topic. The year 2020 will go down in the history books as a year fraught with life-altering events. It’s fair to say, the pandemic, presidential election, and the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg will change the course of history and hence change the lives of many.
The same may not be true of other topics. In a time when ‘big fish’ prevail, how does the casual speaker prepare a passionate speech with great significance?
If raising money for the local animal shelter is the goal, it’s essential to express the importance of funding your passion project. For instance, there are K-9 police dogs that ‘sniff-out’ illegal drugs at America’s borders and horses that provide equine therapy promoting human physical and mental health. If the speech topic is fish, it’s the task of the speaker to create importance.
Based on a survey and estimation, there are nearly 13 million households in the United States that own fish. That means over 10% of Americans have fish in their homes (based on 2.5 people per household). If you can effectively use statistics in your speech, it can improve the significance of your topic.
Asking a rhetorical question is a quick and easy way to begin a speech. The trick is the presentation. Once a question is asked, it’s necessary to give the audience time to reflect and respond mentally. For some speakers, an inserted pause is difficult and will take some practice.
Rhetorical questions are questions asked that don’t require a verbal or non-verbal response. The idea is for the audience to create a visual answer within the confines of their mind. Try to formulate rhetorical questions that encourage the audience to take a trip down memory lane. Try to avoid questions that are close-ended with ‘yes or no’ answers.
Another attention-getter designed to reel in the audience is having relatable openings. If the audience understands you’re trying to be inclusive, the speaker is much more likely not only to get a nibble but maybe a tug on the line.
Instead of discussing the time you went fishing with your partner, include the audience in the storyline. The events unfold as follows: Imagine you’re going on a fishing trip with your significant other. This trip, you’re going to use ‘live’ bait. As you head to an unfamiliar pond or lake, you need to decide: worms or crickets. It’s a question to ponder, so you decide to pick up both.
After buying the worms and crickets, it’s time to bait the hook. Think about your first experience threading a worm. Ugh. Maybe the time you stabbed a cricket with the hook and heard a ‘crunch’ sound as you pierced its body. At this point, the audience is fully invested and ready to listen to your next disgusting example.
Startling the audience is another technique used to get the audience’ attention. Using statistics is a great way to cast the baited hook and catch a fish. As a public speaker, evidence is your ticket to the Big Bass Splash, the world’s largest amateur's big bass fishing tournament. Information included in your speech from credible sources takes the speech to a whole new level. And surprising statistics will leave the audience wanting more.
An example might be the number of deaths in the United States due to COVID-19. As of September 2020, the United States has lost 200,000 people to COVID-19. According to John Hopkins University, the United States leads the way in total deaths and total infection rates. Brazil has the second highest death rate with approximately 50,000 fewer deaths than the United States and India comes in third with 86,000 total deaths. When the pandemic death estimates were first announced by the CDC in mid-March, American’s didn’t believe it would happen. It has and it is.
The fifth suggestion for jigging a lure to catch a fish is the use of quotations. Quotations are a group of words from text or speech that’s repeated by someone other than the original author. Be quoting experts or people celebrated in their respective fields, credibility is enhanced.
When choosing quotes for the introduction of your speech, it’s important to consider the length of the quote. Most introductions require 10 to 15 percent of presentation time. If you find a quote that’s too long, either find another quote or paraphrase.
Find quotes that move you. This particular quote contains few words but the message is big, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou.
As speeches are prepared and beginnings are written and rehearsed, remember, you aren’t locked into any particular introduction. The important thing to remember is write and rewrite the introduction until you find the perfect fit. Beginnings are hard and scary. The ‘big fish’ is out there waiting to be caught. Give a man a fish and they eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.
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Liz Latta, Editor/WKCTC Instructor with over 15 years teaching experience. Master's Degree in Organizational Communications from Murray State University