www.wellsaid.com April 2014



"Let me hear your Opener." That's what a veteran speech coach said to me over 25 years ago as she prepped me for my first big presentation. As a novice, I stammered, "Uh...I don't have one." She then declared, "My dear, the art is in the start!"  Studies show she was right. When we speak, we have about 60 seconds to capture our audience's attention, establish credibility, orient them to our topic, and motivate them to listen. That's a tall order for any speaker and requires us to develop and rehearse a well-crafted attention-getter. Please enjoy these three proven speech Openers that will help you put more 'art in the start' and earn your audience's interest right away.


Thanks for your loyal readership, and best wishes for continued communication excellence!


Kind regards,


The Art Is In The Start:

Three Proven Openers To Capture 

Audience Attention

 By Darlene Price, Well Said, Inc.
"The beginning is the most important part of the work."


Open with a bang. If you haven't hooked your audience's attention in the first minute, their minds are likely to drift. Whatever you do, please don't waste your precious opening seconds with a joke, an agenda, an apology, or a rambling pointless paragraph littered with uhs and ums. You, your message, and your audience deserve much more. Instead, invest the thought, time and effort to craft and memorize "the most important part of the work." Here are three proven Openers you can use to launch your next speech or presentation more successfully:


1. Ask a rhetorical thought-provoking question.

In Simon Sinek's top rated TEDTalk, "How Great Leaders Inspire Action," he grabs listeners in the first minute by asking six rapid-fire questions that stimulate interest and set the stage for how to be an inspiring leader:
"How do you explain when things don't go as we assume? Or better, how do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions? For example: Why is Apple so innovative?..Why is it that they seem to have something different? Why is it that Martin Luther King led the Civil Rights Movement? He wasn't the only man who suffered in a pre-civil rights America...why him? And why is it that the Wright brothers were able to figure out control-powered, manned flight when there were certainly other teams who were better qualified and better funded...There's something else at play here."

This approach is extremely effective because the underlying answer to all six questions is the key point of Simon's presentation: Great leaders communicate the purpose, belief, and cause of their endeavor; they inspire and lead others to follow by answering the question Why, not What or How. As you think about your next presentation, what rhetorical questions would communicate your key point?


2. State a relevant shocking statistic.

Barbara, a former Chief Nursing Officer of a major U.S. hospital, now works as a vice president of sales for America's leading healthcare IT company. She sells software solutions to hospitals that ensure patient safety and improve clinical quality. Here's how she opens her sales presentation: "According to a new study in the Journal of Patient Safety, medical errors leading to patient death are much higher than previously thought. Preventable adverse events known as PAEs, cause up to 400,000 deaths per year for patients who seek care at a hospital. That means medical errors are the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. Let me pause while you take that in....The purpose of this presentation is to invite your organization to partner with mine in order to create a world free of medical errors; a world where every patient receives the safest, highest quality of care." What relevant statistics or facts would startle your next audience and capture their attention?

3. Tell a personal story. Of all the Openers in your toolkit, telling a brief well-crafted personal story is among the most powerful and consistently successful. It tells the audience first-hand why you're invested in and passionate about the topic. For example, Jill Bolte Taylor, brain researcher, author, and national spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center studied her own stroke as it happened and has become a powerful voice for brain recovery. In the first minute of her TEDTalk, she opens by saying:

"I grew up to study the brain because I have a brother who has been diagnosed with a brain disorder, schizophrenia. And as a sister and as a scientist, I wanted to understand, why is it that I can take my dreams, I can connect them to my reality, and I can make my dreams come true -- what is it about my brother's brain and his schizophrenia that he cannot connect his dreams to a common, shared reality, so they instead become delusions? So I dedicated my career to research into the severe mental illnesses."

As you craft your opening story, consider these questions: Why are you invested in and excited about your topic? What challenges have you faced in relation to this topic and how did you overcome them? What lessons did you learn and how do you want your audience to benefit from your story?


If you would like to discover additional Openers and learn more about effective presentation skills, please read my book, Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results (available in hard cover and Kindle). 


Or contact me directly to schedule a training session for you and your team. I would be honored to support your speaking success! 

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