Beginning with a Grabber

… a core concept in Communication Skills and Atlas 109

Attention2Concept description

Beginning a speech or presentation with an “attention grabber” is an important technique in speaking to persuade.

In his article, 5 Ways to Start Your Speech, Peter Jeff (reference below) uses the pneumonic, TEASE, to suggest five approaches to starting a speech on topic X:

  1. Testimonial: Cite the behaviour of a celebrity pertinent to X and/or quote an influential person the audience will know of or respect.
  2. Evidence: Present statistics or other data on X.
  3. Anecdote: Tell a story of someone directly affected by X.
  4. Statement: Make a bold observation on the importance of X.
  5. Example: Cite a person whose career really took off because of X.

In his article, Electrify Your Audience with a Shocking Speech Opening (reference below), Andrew Dlugan notes that a strong speech opening is critical to grab the attention of your audience and illustrates how to use drama to achieve this with an opening for an awareness-raising speech school security:

“Tobacco. [long pause]
Alcohol. [long pause]
Guns. [long pause]
Criminal items seized in a search [slight pause] of a 6th grade locker in a bad school district.”

Once the speaker has the attention of the audience, it is useful to quickly establish rapport. In her article, The First 60 Seconds (reference below), Marie Danziger, suggests 7 Ways to Establish Rapport with Your Audience:

  1. Compliment them
  2. Identify with them
  3. Tell them a funny story
  4. Address their immediate concerns, fears, or expectations
  5. Acknowledge some difference or problem between you and them (if appropriate!)
  6. Describe an interesting story you just read or experienced – or a movie or TV show you just saw—to introduce your main theme
  7. Share your real-time feelings about the place, the occasion, or events that have just taken place

Connor Neill, 2012, How to Start a Speech, 9-minute YouTube video with 1.4 million views, at, accessed 30 January 2016.

Jason Teteak, 2013, How to Do a Presentation – 5 Steps to a Killer Opener, 7-minute YouTube video with 1.2 million views, at, accessed 30 January 2016.


Drawn from Peter Jeff, 2009, TEASE ’em: 5 Ways to Start Your Speech, at, accessed 30 January 2016; Andrew Dlugan, 2008, Electrify Your Audience with a Shocking Speech Opening, at, accessed 30 January 2016; Marie Danziger, The First 60 Seconds – 7 Ways to Establish Rapport with Your Audience, HKS Communications Program, at, accessed 24 January 2016.

Normed topic and synthetic course with which the concept is primarily associated

This concept is primarily associated with the core normed topic Speaking to Persuade and is included in the synthetic course outline Atlas109 Leadership and Communication Skills.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 30 January 2016.

Image: Wine Run, at, accessed 30 January 2016.