How to grab the listeners attention?

By | 28/10/2011

“Start from the middle,” said my creative writing coach.

I was surprised. Not just surprised; I was stumped. Throughout my life I was taught that you always start from the beginning and then move to the middle and finally end. How can one start from the middle? I was now confused.

I guess, you the reader are confused too. You must be thinking, ‘What has creative writing to do with Public Speaking?’

From my experience there is a lot of similarity between Creative Writing and Public Speaking. They are both trying to grab the attention of the reader/listener and attempt to convey a message. The message can be informative, entertaining, purpose driven or inspirational in the case of Public Speaking and usually entertaining in the case of Creative Writing.

After the class was over, I sat back and reflected on the message ‘Start from the middle.’

What does ‘start from the middle’ mean for us Speakers?

Start from the middle means; start right in the midst of the action. So If I was writing a murder mystery, it means start right in the middle of the murder or the act of murder, which would raise a number of questions in the readers mind – Who was murdered?, why? Who could have done it? Etc.

Similarly in a speech start in the middle of the action. This grabs the listeners’ attention. Subsequently questions are raised in the listeners’ mind –‘What is happening here? Why? Who?’ etc

Then begin to answer those questions. This keeps the listeners attention throughout the speech. Then when you bring the speech to a close, make sure that you answer the questions and leave the listener with a satisfying close.

For example one of the speeches I did was on not giving up.

I started the speech with a dialogue in a raised voice.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING THERE DINESH?”

The stage is set. Straight away the audience is curious – ‘Who is shouting at Dinesh? Why and what is happening?’

I then went on to explain that it was my first job and it was my manager screaming at me. I then moved the story from that experience, which was a misunderstanding about my capabilities, to, how I moulded myself in a positive way after that episode.

So to summarise; starting the speech in the middle is a very effective way to grab the attention of the listeners. It is a great technique for constructing a very effective speech.

Dinesh Kaulgud

ACB, CL

Member of Leeds City Toastmasters and White Rose Speakers