As originally answered on Quora.com
Here is what I recall as being the most memorable attention getter for me. I believe that it might have been from an article in the Toastmaster magazine on the subject of grabbing your audience’s attention. The presentation was on water conservation.
While holding a glass of water the presenter looked at the glass and then looked at the audience and then took a sip. “This glass of water has gone through eight sets of kidneys before it has collected in this glass. The bad news is that there isn’t enough to go around!”
That opening was attention grabbing on several different levels.
I often start off with a rhetorical question to engage the audience from the get-go. The idea is to answer the audience’s question “What’s in it for me?” “Why should I listen to this speaker?” Being that the question is rhetorical, I’m not really expecting an answer. I’m hoping the audience will be reflective, allowing me to transition to the next stage of my presentation. I also prepare for the eventuality that somebody does actually answer the question and take me in a direction that I don’t necessarily want to go. There are a lot of literal thinkers out there that may not realize that the opening question was intended to be rhetorical.
Another attention grabber can be to use a quote that sets you up for your main point. In the past I have delivered speeches on leadership. I have good response to “If you think you are leading and you look behind you to see that nobody is following you, then you are just out for a walk. Have you looked behind you lately?”
Tom Antion, author of “Wake’Em Up!” recommends using humour to grab your audience’s attention when delivering business presentations, which are likely informative in nature. He also says to use anywhere from 15% to 20% [humor] spread throughout your presentation. If you use humor to grab your audience’s attention from the beginning, you can make references to it throughout your presentation or build upon it … or even take it another direction.
Thanks for the question!
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Rae A. Stonehouse is an author, speaker, and self-publishing consultant dedicated to helping others embrace constant improvement and overcome challenges. With over 40 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in psychiatry and mental health, Rae brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for self-development to his writing and presentations.
As a 25+ year member of Toastmasters International, Rae has systematically built his communication abilities and self-confidence to share his insights as an author and speaker. His self-help books and personal development presentations aim to have conversational one-on-one connections with readers and audiences.
Rae is known for his wry sense of humor and sage advice delivered in a relatable coaching style. After four decades as a nurse, Rae has rewired rather than retired, actively writing and pursuing public speaking. He strives to share lessons learned to help others achieve personal and professional growth.