Capturing the Audience S Attention

Capturing the Audience S Attention


Capturing the Audience’s Attention

After reviewing this subject in the chapter, identify the particular attention-getter in each of the following opening statements:

  1. If I were an American and you were an American audience, I would probably begin my speech with a joke. If I were Japanese speaking to a Japanese audience, I would probably begin with an apology. Since I am neither American nor Japanese, I will begin with an apology for not telling a joke. (R. Moran)
  2. Today is a very special day in the lives of these young people seated before us. It is a day they will always refer to as their graduation day.
  3. William Butler Yeats said, "Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire." These words give us much to ponder tonight as we debate the future of this educational institution.
  4. Surveys show that the number one fear of Americans is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. That means that at a funeral, the average American would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy. (Jerry Seinfeld)
  5. As I begin my after-dinner speech tonight, I'd like to ask: How many of you know the fat content or number of grams of fat in the meal we just ate together?
  6. On September 11, 2001, the world mourned for the 3,000 people killed in the terrorist attacks on our country. That same day, over 30,000 people died of preventable causes. These 30,000 people didn't have twenty-four-hour television coverage to talk about the causes of their deaths. They weren't the subject of statements by powerful political figures. Donors didn't spring into action to meet their needs. That day and every day since, 30,000 children die of diseases—for which we have vaccinations—and hunger.

Outlining a Speech

Choose a current or historic speech from the following presidential speech archive, and outline it according to the principles and format discussed in the text. How effective do you consider the beginning, end, and transitions in the speech you selected? What pattern of organization did the speaker use?

Using Transitions

This website describes twelve helpful types of transitions. Write a transition statement of each type for a specific speech topic.

Division of Ideas and Parallel Wording

Practice the rule of division by dividing each of the following into three to five subcategories:

  1. Clothing
  2. Academic studies
  3. Crime
  4. Healthcare
  5. Fun
  6. Charities

Practice the rule of parallel wording by rewriting the following sentences to increase parallelism:

  1. You should never leave your car doors unlocked. Be sure to carry a flashlight and flares. Don't ever travel without adequate pre-trip maintenance to your vehicle.

  2. Future goals for humankind should be to end warfare and violence. To survive, the world needs to understand and build a global community to prevent famine. The environment is the greatest concern of this century.

  3. The family of the twenty-first century will probably have experienced divorce. Twenty-first-century families may have children through increased fertility technology. More families in the next century will be interracial.
  4. Education must include fluency in several languages. Without computer skills, there is no point in other education. The whole point of any education is to learn how to learn.

Logical Patterns of Organization and Supporting Material

Find two TED Talks from that illustrate two different patterns of organization and describe how effectively the points are arranged in this pattern. If the speaker had not used this particular pattern, what other arrangement might have been possible with the topic? If a speaker discussing global warming, for example, had used a time pattern, would a space or topic arrangement also have been a possibility?

Then review the same speeches and analyze the different types of supporting material. Use the transcripts, which are typically provided, to aid you in these tasks.


TED Talk

Nancy Duarte: “The Secret Structure of Great Talks”


(For further discussion of these and other films that illustrate communication concepts, see Now Playing.)

The Iron Lady (2013, Rated PG-13)

Communication Concepts: public speaking, speaker credibility, delivery

Invictus (2009, Rated PG-13)

Communication Concepts: public speaking, credibility, audience analysis, leadership, and power

Clueless (1995, Rated PG-13)

Communication Concepts: public speaking, language, coculture, communication competence


Dowis, Richard (1999). The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One—How to Deliver It. New York, NY: AMA Publications.

An award-winning author’s guide to crafting a great speech, this text covers all the essentials, from outlining your ideas to taking audience questions—a comprehensive discussion complemented by memorable excerpts from historic speeches.

Journal Articles

Stairs Vaughn, Mary & Parry, Pam (2013). The Statement of Purpose Speech: Helping Students Navigate the ‘‘Sophomore Slump.” Communication Teacher, 27(4), 207–211.

Abstract: Students will demonstrate their ability to develop an innovative theme; structure a message in two to four main points; and tailor a message to the demographic and situational factors of a targeted audience. They will also engage in focused reflection of personal strengths and weaknesses, choice of major, and future goals. Finally, they will articulate a persuasive and purposeful message that distinguishes them from their peers.

Slagell, Amy (2013). Why Should You Use a Clear Pattern of Organization? Because It Works. Communication Teacher, 27(4), 198–201.

Abstract: Students will be persuaded of the strategic advantage in using recognizable patterns of organization to help audiences make sense of and retain information in their informative speeches.

Creed, Michael W. (1999). Maximum Impact: Organizing Your Presentation. Journal of Management in Engineering, 15(5), 28–31.

Abstract: The outline has proven to be a useful organizational technique for preparing a presentation. This article discusses three approaches to constructing an outline, all of which address the issue of how many points and sub-points should be used to make the presentation as effective and compelling as possible. The first model is a summary of Cicero's six rules of discourse, the second explores Monroe’s Motivated Sequence[EP1], and the third illustrates the details of a simple, three-step organizational strategy. A sidebar to the article provides tips for effective speaking.

[EP1]AQ: Please confirm “Monroe’s” rather than “Montre’s”