Types of Introductions

Learning Objectives

Describe the different types of introductions.

The first thing an audience hears in your speech should always be the attention-getter. There are several ways to get the attention of an audience, but not all are effective. While it might be tempting to employ loud distractions or vaudevillian tactics such as falling to get your audience’s attention, those tactics will provide only a temporary distraction to your audience and will likely hurt your credibility. Unless your attention-getter is relevant to your speech, your audience may not devote any further attention than simply recognizing that you are there.

An effective attention-getter serves three functions:

  1. Sets the tone for your speech
  2. Acknowledges and appeals to your audience
  3. Provides a teaser for your topic
A plate of Kimchi

How should we start a speech about Kimchi?

There are eight useful attention-getting devices that fulfill these functions when used well. Some are more effective than others and many can be used together and/or peppered with humor. When deciding which to use, consider the amount of time you have to prepare your speech, whether your audience will likely need winning over, and how familiar they may already be with your topic.

Let’s say that you are giving a cultural artifact speech about the Republic of Korea’s national dish: Kimchi.

Quick and Easy Attention-Getters

With little time to prepare and for an audience that is already familiar and positively invested in your topic, these low-order, attention-getting devices can be used.

  1. Rhetorical question. A rhetorical question is one to which no reply is expected, but instead invites the audience to consider something.
    • “If you had to eat the same thing for every meal, every day—what would it be? In the Republic of Korea, that answer is easy: kimchi. In fact, that is exactly how often it is eaten.”
  2. Quotation. This attention-getting device uses the words of another person that relate directly to your topic. If the person you are quoting is not well known, it is a good idea to provide information of why that person is relevant in the context of your speech.
    • “Famous American historian Donna Gabbacia stated, ‘Humans cling tenaciously to familiar foods because they become associated with nearly every dimension of human social and cultural life. . . . Eating habits both symbolize and mark the boundaries of cultures.’ Nothing exemplifies her words more than the national dish of Korea, kimchi.”

Audience-Centered Attention-Getters

With a little more time to prepare and for an audience that may not be as familiar or positively invested in your topic, the following medium-order, attention-getting devices can be used.

  1. Refer to the audience. When using this attention getting device, the speaker shows their understanding of the audience by drawing attention to a unique quality the audience shares that should make your topic interesting to them.
    • “Here in Philadelphia, some might say our most recognizable meal is a Philly cheesesteak.”
  2. Refer to a recent, current event or historical event. Using a recent, current, or historical event as your attention-getting device helps the audience gain awareness of how relevant your topic is in today’s world. It can serve as an emotional appeal as it summons the feelings that the audience members associate with the given event.
    • “As we in the United States begin planning our Thanksgiving dinner, more than 3,000 people will gather in Seoul to cook kimchi together for the city’s annual festival.”
  3. Hypothetical Scenario. Similar to a rhetorical question, the goal of using a hypothetical scenario is to engage the audience by asking them to consider something. What makes a hypothetical scenario more effective than a rhetorical question is that the audience members are asked to be the protagonist in a story, which evokes emotions, suspense, and identification.
    • “Imagine sitting down after a long day to eat a well-deserved meal with your family, the table full of comfort food. Now, if you are sitting at a table in Korea—your comfort food is something that has been slowly fermenting for a year!”

Relevant and Stimulating Attention-Getters

With plenty of time to prepare and for an audience that does not know about your topic or knows but disagrees with your thesis, the following attention-getters of the highest order can be used.

  1. Anecdote—External or Personal. An anecdote is a very effective attention-getting device, using a real story or account of an interesting or humorous event. It can be an external story or account, or a story about yourself. If you are an expert, or have first-hand experience, an anecdote is an excellent way to show that you are credible from the very beginning. When using an anecdote in your introduction, you should ensure that it is brief and has a clear application to your topic.
    • “When South Korea’s first astronaut, Ko San, blasts off April 8 aboard a Russian spaceship bound for the International Space Station, the beloved national dish [kimchi] will be on board. Three top government research institutes spent millions of dollars and several years perfecting a version of kimchi that would not turn dangerous when exposed to cosmic rays or other forms of radiation and would not put off non-Korean astronauts with its pungency.”
  2. Provocative Statement. A provocative statement makes an excellent, but sometimes challenging, attention-getting device. It is especially effective if the audience is already aware of your topic and may hold certain beliefs, attitudes, or knowledge about it. A provocative statement begins with a well-known fact about your topic, but then challenges that idea. This statement will pique the interest of your audience as well as challenge their own existing ideas about your topic.
    • “Kimchi is well known as the national dish of Korea, eaten at every meal. However, the kimchi museum in Seoul claims that Korea’s neighbor across the Yellow Sea invented the national dish some 3,000 years ago.”
  3. Startling Statistic or Strange Fact. When considering a startling statistic as your attention-getting device, the goals should be to surprise and engage your audience. You can achieve the same goal by using a strange fact if you do not want to use numbers or statistics.
    • Startling Statistic: “There are over 200 varieties. It is both a condiment and a meal. It will preserve your health while burning you from the inside out. The average Korean eats 40 pounds of kimchi per year.”
    • Strange Fact: “When the SARS pandemic tore through Asia, Korea was left untouched. The reason for that is . . . kimchi.”


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