Gain Attention

Woman delivers a speech.While the attention step served an important purpose in an informational speech by setting the tone and providing the audience with a reason to listen, it serves an even more critical role in the speech to motivate others to action. As mentioned earlier in the chapter, if this step does not capture the audience’s attention, subsequent steps will not have the psychological effect needed to make the message persuasive. Fortunately, the introduction outlined in Chapter 6 shares the subcomponents of the Gain Attention step with this speech type:

  • Grab attention
  • Relate topic to audience
  • Relate topic to self (establish credibility)
  • State central idea and specific purpose
  • Preview main points

Look at how the sample topic might look using this formula:

  • Grab attention: On February 19, 2011, a young girl named Ashley Jones-Davis was killed in a gruesome automobile accident. She was texting and driving when she swerved out of the center lane and drove head-on into a box truck. Ashley died on the scene. Since that time, her family has dedicated countess hours and emotional energy telling Ashley’s story, because they don’t want other families to go through the trauma and sense of loss they experienced.
    • Notes: This speech begins with a story that many can relate to, whether audience members consist of parents, students, women, or simply drivers who have texted while driving before. While brief, the story sets the stage for subsequent information by sharing a personal connection to the topic. This speaker could also show Ashley’s photo, juxtaposed with a photo from the crash for added appeal to emotion.
  • Relate topic to audience: According to my audience survey, nearly 100% of you stated that you have read and/or answered a text while driving before. Though many of you stated that you try to save phone use for stoplights, statistics show that you are not alone. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 11% of drivers on the road at any given time are distracted by phone use.
    • Notes: By appealing to the audience survey, this speaker connects directly to the people in the room, but then broadens out the appeal by relating statistics from a credible national organization.
  • Relate topic to self (establish credibility): Two years ago, I saw my light turn green, and as I started to drive through the intersection, I was struck from the side by a driver who ran a red light because he was texting while driving. This accident not only totaled my car, but also resulted in extended hospitalization and a six-month rehabilitation before I could walk again.
    • Notes: Copy and pasted from prep question 2 (Why do you want to deliver this speech?), this speaker clearly has a vested interest in sharing a story that motivates others to avoid texting and driving, but more than that, it also relates to the initial story and the statistics shared in the previous step, carefully weaving the three steps together with a common thread, adding to the flow of the message.
  • State central idea and specific purpose: Texting and driving is dangerous, not only to yourself, but to all other drivers sharing the road with you. Today, I would like to motivate you all to stop texting while driving before stories like mine and Ashley’s become the norm, rather than the exception.
    • Notes: The central idea and specific purpose encapsulate the core of the speech’s message, but they also tie together all threads present within the introduction so far.
  • Preview main points: I will show you how big of a problem texting and driving has become today (point #1, Need step), what you can do to stop it (point #2, Satisfaction step), and how you can personally benefit from doing so (point #3, Visualization step).
    • Notes: The speaker did not reveal too much information too soon, effectively sharing with the audience what they can expect to hear in the next few minutes or so and clue them in to the direction of the conversation.


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Messages that Matter: Public Speaking in the Information Age - Third Edition Copyright © 2023 by North Idaho College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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